The syntactic status of English dative alternation structures in bilingual and in monolingual acquisition data
This study deals with the syntactic (non-)derivational relationship of English dative alternation (DA) –double object constructions (DOCs) and to/for-datives–, as seen in the spontaneous production of English-Spanish bilinguals when compared to English monolinguals. While a chronological progression and a difference in use between the two English DA constructions could suggest a syntactic-derivational relationship between DOCs and to/for-datives, a fairly similar emergence and a possibly similar rate of use could point to the two constructions not displaying a syntactic-derivational status. We also explore whether English-Spanish bilinguals show divergent developmental paths when compared to English monolinguals. To address these issues, we analyze data from nine English-Spanish bilingual children and twelve English monolingual children, along with the adults interacting with them. The analysis shows that both DA structures emerge at a similar age, which suggests they are not syntactically derived from one another. Despite these differences, the later onset and the lower incidence of to/for-datives could be associated with the case and theta role mediated properties of prepositions as well as with the frequency of exposure to DA in the adults’ speech. As no differences appear between bilinguals and monolinguals, transfer from Spanish does not seem to be an issue.