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Clitic Production in Bilingual Children: When Exposure Matters

Department of Cultures and Civilizations, University of Verona, Viale dell’Università 4, 37129 Verona, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Languages 2018, 3(3), 22;
Received: 31 December 2017 / Revised: 22 June 2018 / Accepted: 25 June 2018 / Published: 28 June 2018
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The aim of this work is to investigate how bilingual children perform with respect to monolingual children in a task eliciting direct object clitic pronouns in Italian. Clitic production is considered a good clinical marker for Italian monolingual children suffering from specific language impairment (SLI) (Bortolini et al. 2006). Moreover, this task is reported to be particularly challenging for early second language children (EL2), who are less accurate than their peers in this task (Vender et al. 2016). Even though the typology of errors committed by the two populations (non-impaired bilinguals and SLI children) is generally different, it can be difficult to keep them apart from each other and, as a consequence, to identify a language impairment in bilingual children. However, it has been suggested that the difficulties exhibited by EL2 children in clitic production are related to their competence in their L2 and that they should disappear as soon as their mastery of the L2 increases. To test this prediction, we assessed clitic production in a group of 31 bilingual children having Italian as their L2 (mean age 10;2), comparing their performance to that of a group of 33 Italian monolingual children (mean age 10;2). The bilingual children used their L1 on a daily basis, as assessed by means of a bilingual exposure questionnaire, and had on average eight years of exposure to Italian; moreover, they performed similarly to monolinguals in a receptive vocabulary task, indicating that their competence in Italian was good. Consistently with our predictions, we found that bilingual children performed very accurately in the clitic elicitation task, similarly to monolinguals, confirming that the deficits previously found in EL2 children were not related to bilingualism itself, but more likely to their still incomplete competence in Italian. View Full-Text
Keywords: clitic production; early second language learners; bilingualism; specific language impairment clitic production; early second language learners; bilingualism; specific language impairment
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Vender, M.; Delfitto, D.; Melloni, C. Clitic Production in Bilingual Children: When Exposure Matters. Languages 2018, 3, 22.

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