Experimental study of morphological case marking knowledge in Japanese-English bilingual children in Christchurch New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis presents the results of an experimental study designed to examine whether children raised bilingually in Japanese and English from birth in Christchurch, New Zealand, exhibit the same morphological case and topic marking knowledge in Japanese as monolingual children in Japan. The participants were 34 children aged between five and eleven years who have been raised in a one-person one-language environment in an English dominant community. The study replicated previous studies on monolingual Japanese children, and involved two widely used paradigms for assessing a child’s grammar: picture selection, and elicited imitation. The responses of the children in this study were different from those reported in studies of monolingual children. In the picture selection tasks, some children in this study interpreted the agent-patient relationship based on the word order cue in the object-initial types of transitive sentences, whereas previous studies have demonstrated that monolingual children five years and older are able to interpret the agent-patient relationship in the same way as adults, using the case marking cue. Moreover, in the elicited imitation tasks, many children in this study re-analysed the topic-comment construction as a genitive possessive when the particles in the stimuli were masked with noise. This pattern has not been reported in any previous study. The results also revealed that there was a great degree of individual variation. The study suggests cross-linguistic influence from English on Japanese as a possible explanation for the difference between the children in this study and monolinguals. The phenomena observed in the results satisfies two conditions for cross-linguistic influence proposed by Hulk and Müller (2000) and Müller and Hulk (2001), because (i) English and Japanese overlap at the surface level in terms of the agent position in a canonical sentence and the possessive structure, and (ii) the problematic structures for some children in this study involved the interface between syntax and pragmatics in the C-domain. The study, however, has no principled explanation for the individual variation found because of a lack of data on the Japanese input and the child’s fluency, both of which are likely to affect simultaneous bilingual development.