What usage can do: The effect of language dominance on simultaneous bilinguals’ morphosyntactic processing
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Caffarra, S., Zimnukhova, S. & Mancini, S. (2016). What usage can do: The effect of language dominance on simultaneous bilinguals’ morphosyntactic processing . Linguistics Vanguard, 2(s1), pp. 43-53. Doi:10.1515/lingvan-2016-0020
Even when bilinguals learn both languages from birth and achieve high levels of proficiency, they rarely use their languages to the same degree. Recent findings suggest that individual differences in bilingual profile such as the usage of the bilingual’s different languages could affect the way they retrieve and analyse linguistic information, with greater use of linguistic mechanisms from the dominant language. One of the linguistic areas where a wide variety of bilingual performance has been reported is morphosyntax. The present study tests whether language usage can account for a certain amount of the individual variability in morphosyntactic feature extraction. Basque-Spanish simultaneous bilinguals with a range of language dominance profiles were asked to judge the grammatical gender of Spanish nouns the ending of which could provide a reliable cue to gender (i. e., transparent) or not (i. e., opaque). Results showed that the more bilinguals used Basque (i. e., an agglutinative language) on a daily basis, the faster they were at detecting the presence of transparent morphemes relative to opaque nouns. These findings suggest that simultaneous bilinguals have different ways of retrieving grammatical gender depending on their language profile. Language usage can contribute to explaining the presence of individual differences in morphosyntactic feature retrieval.