Bidirectional cross-linguistic influence in late bilingualism
Evidence from the container-content relation
The container-content relation represents a set of nominal configurations unexplored in the acquisition literature. Whereas in English the switch from a noun-noun compound (water bottle) to a noun-prepositional phrase (bottle of water) is associated with a semantic shift from container to content, Spanish and Arabic adopt single canonical configurations for both conditions, noun-prepositional phrase and noun phrase, respectively. Importantly, Spanish, Arabic, and English display structural overlap in the content condition maintained by head-first isomorphic strings. In the container condition, they show structural dissimilarity; whereas English uses a head-final construction, Arabic and Spanish consistently use head-first constructions. Results from an elicited sentence-reordering task demonstrate that advanced late learners pattern native speakers when tested in Spanish but not when tested in English. Additionally, when tested in English, Arabic-speaking and Spanish-speaking learners overextend their L1 canonical configurations to both conditions. Furthermore, bilingual native speakers do not perform at ceiling, suggesting bidirectional cross-linguistic influence.