Meta-analysis on cross-linguistic influence in bilingual children

Although cross-linguistic influence at the level of morphosyntax is one of the most intensively studied topics in child bilingualism, the circumstances under which it occurs remain unclear. In this meta-analysis, we measured the effect size of cross-linguistic influence and systematically assessed its predictors in 750 simultaneous and early sequential bilingual children in 17 unique language combinations across 26 experimental studies. We found a significant small to moderate average effect size of cross-linguistic influence, indicating that cross-linguistic influence is part and parcel of bilingual development. Language dominance, operationalized as societal language, was a significant predictor of cross-linguistic influence, whereas surface overlap, language domain and age were not. Perhaps an even more important finding was that definitions and operationalisations of cross-linguistic influence and its predictors varied considerably between studies. This could explain the absence of a comprehensive theory in the field. To solve this issue, we argue for a more uniform method of studying cross-linguistic influence. Read more in the Journal of Child Language.