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Monolingual and bilingual children’s production of complex syntactic structures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2022

University of Alberta, Canada
University of Alberta, Canada
University of Alberta, Canada
*Corresponding author: Elena Nicoladis, University of Alberta - Psychology P217 Biological Sciences Building, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9 Canada. E-mail:


Typically-developing bilingual children often score lower than monolingual peers of the same age on standardized measures; however, research has shown that when assessed in more natural discourse contexts, bilinguals can perform similar to age-matched monolinguals in some language subdomains. This study investigated complex syntax production in simultaneous French–English bilingual children and monolingual age-matched peers, using structured and spontaneous measures. Surprisingly, the bilinguals scored higher than the monolinguals on the structured task. There was no difference between groups on the spontaneous measure; however, predictors of complex syntax production differed by language groups and by tasks. Contrary to other language subdomains showing bilingual English development as protracted relative to monolingual peers, these results point to a relative strength of complex syntax acquisition among simultaneous bilingual children. Differences in exposure relative to monolingual children may be less pronounced in syntax, in part because bilinguals can benefit from syntactic knowledge in their other language.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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