Structural priming of ungrammatical structures and what this means for shared syntax in bilinguals

New paper alert! My former PhD student / post-doc, Chantal van Dijk, and I have just uploaded a new preprint. Here’s the abstract:

Bilinguals are often considered to develop shared syntactic representations between their languages. Evidence for shared syntax typically comes from between-language priming studies showing that exposure to a structure in a bilingual’s one language can prime the subsequent use of the same structure in their other language. In turn, between-language priming of shared structures can have long-term consequences, explaining an intensively studied phenomenon in the field of bilingualism: cross-linguistic influence. Virtually all available studies on between-language priming have focussed on structures that are present in both languages of the bilingual population tested. However, cross-linguistic influence has been found to result in ungrammatical structures as well. In this study, we investigated whether it is possible to prime ungrammatical adjective placement in Dutch under influence of Spanish and French and in French under influence of Dutch in Spanish-Dutch and French-Dutch bilingual children. In addition, we studied the effect of language proficiency on the strength of such between-language priming. Finally, we tested whether priming of ungrammatical structures is the result of shared or separate-but-connected syntactic representations. Our results show between-language priming of ungrammatical adjective placement from Spanish and French into Dutch. The lower children’s proficiency in their languages, the stronger the priming effect was. These findings follow the proposal that between-language priming can account for cross-linguistic influence, including ungrammatical structures. Furthermore, we believe our results of ungrammatical priming are best explained by separate-but-connected syntactic structures.