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Cross-linguistic influence in simultaneous Cantonese–English bilingual children's comprehension of relative clauses

Kidd, E., Chan, A., & Chiu, J. (2015). Cross-linguistic influence in simultaneous Cantonese–English bilingual children's comprehension of relative clauses. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18(3), 438-452. doi:10.1017/S1366728914000649.
The current study investigated the role of cross-linguistic influence in Cantonese–English bilingual children's comprehension of subject- and object-extracted relative clauses (RCs). Twenty simultaneous Cantonese–English bilingual children (Mage = 8;11, SD = 2;6) and 20 vocabulary-matched Cantonese monolingual children (Mage = 6;4, SD = 1;3) completed a test of Cantonese RC comprehension. The bilingual children also completed a test of English RC comprehension. The results showed that, whereas the monolingual children were equally competent on subject and object RCs, the bilingual children performed significantly better on subject RCs. Error analyses suggested that the bilingual children were most often correctly assigning thematic roles in object RCs, but were incorrectly choosing the RC subject as the head referent. This pervasive error was interpreted to be due to the fact that both Cantonese and English have canonical SVO word order, which creates competition with structures that compete with an object RC analysis.
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