Cross-linguistic Influence in Bilingual Children and Second Language Learners

Principal Investigator
Dr Coralie Herve

How does bilingualism impact speech?

Dr Coralie Hervé worked on a two-year project to study the differences in the speech of children who have been bilingual since birth compared to adults who choose to learn a second language later in life.

We know that bilingual children pass similar linguistic milestones as monolingual children as they acquire their two languages. While bilingual children acquire their two languages as largely separate language systems, we know that there are also some minor language interactions, known as cross-linguistic influence (CLI). This phenomenon is also evidenced in the context of second language acquisition.

This project examined
  • Whether the daily use of two distinct syntactic forms (article systems in French and English) leads to their entrenchment in French-English bilinguals’ comprehension of this particular property in everyday sentences.
  • The influence of language exposure and of productive measures of relative language dominance (stronger vs weaker language) on the direction and magnitude of CLI.
  • To what extent this phenomenon operates differently depending on the age of language acquisition (simultaneous bilingual development or second language learning).

Our experiments

A sentence self-paced reading paradigm, a psycholinguistic method where participants read, at their own pace, passages of text on a computer screen, was used in two studies.

  • Study 1 involves French adult learners of English as second language as well as monolingual controls.
  • Study 2 involves simultaneous French-English bilingual children as well as monolingual control groups. This study was conducted in bilingual schools in London and Paris.
Our funding

This project is funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.  Along with individual fellowships, the MSCA help develop training networks, promote staff exchanges and fund mobility programmes with an international flavour.

Visit the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions website
Get in touch
Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ 
Telephone: 01206 872083
Bilingualism Matters @EastofEngland University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ