Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Research Article

Production and processing asymmetries in the acquisition of tense morphology by sequential bilingual children*


a1 University of Reading, School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences, UK


This study investigates the production and online processing of English tense morphemes by sequential bilingual (L2) Turkish-speaking children with more than three years of exposure to English. Thirty-nine six- to nine-year-old L2 children and twenty-eight typically developing age-matched monolingual (L1) children were administered the production component for third person -s and past tense of the Test for Early Grammatical Impairment (Rice & Wexler, 2001) and participated in an online word monitoring task involving grammatical and ungrammatical sentences with presence/omission of tense (third person -s, past tense -ed) and non-tense (progressive -ing, possessive 's) morphemes. The L2 children's performance on the online task was compared to that of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) in Montgomery and Leonard (1998, 2006) to ascertain similarities and differences between the two populations. Results showed that the L2 children were sensitive to the ungrammaticality induced by the omission of tense morphemes, despite variable production. This reinforces the claim about intact underlying syntactic representations in child L2 acquisition despite non-target-like production (Haznedar & Schwartz, 1997).

(Received March 31 2010)

(Revised May 03 2011)

(Accepted June 26 2011)

(Online publication November 03 2011)


c1 Address for correspondence: Vasiliki Chondrogianni, University of Reading, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Reading RG6 6AL, UK


* This research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council research grant ‘Real-time processing of syntactic information in children with English as a Second Language & children with Specific Language Impairment’ awarded to Theo Marinis (RES-061-23-0137). We would like to thank Halit Firat for collecting the data from the L2 children, the schools and families for participating in this project, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions.