Is bilingual language development different from monolingual? Evidence from the use of ellipsis in narrative

Hiromi Muranaka-Vuletich


The research literature comparing the language acquisition trajectory of monolingual and bilingual speakers has been inconclusive. Some studies have emphasised similarities between mono- and bilinguals. Others have argued for qualitative differences due to bilingual transfer from their participants’ other language. Some studies have even claimed that bilinguals’ weaker language may not develop fully despite initial similarities. This study revisits these fundamental questions of bilingualism by testing the use of ellipsis in monolingual and bilingual Japanese speakers. Experimental data were gathered by eliciting oral narratives based on a wordless picture book called ‘Frog, Where are You?’ from five groups of participants: Japanese monolingual and Japanese-English bilingual children aged 4–5 and 8–9-years-old, and Japanese monolingual adults who formed a control group. The results of this study suggest that the fundamental difference, at least in term of ellipsis usage, between mono- and bilinguals is quantitative rather than qualitative, and that this difference was found at an early stage of acquisition rather than only in the older age group.


Japanese; ellipsis; bilingual first language acquisition; child language; narrative

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