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The simultaneous acquisition of two languages in early childhood presents an interesting test case for language acquisition theories. Children in bilingual environments receive input which could potentially lead to output systems different to those of monolingual children. The speech of three bilingual German-English children was recorded monthly between the ages of 2;0 and 5;0. The analysis of word order in the verb phrase shows that initial structural separation was followed by an extended period of non-target structures in German before the children eventually worked out which structures overlap and which structures differentiate the two languages. The bilingual data point towards language being acquired incrementally, on the basis of cue strength and cue cost. It is suggested that the partially overlapping structures in the input from German and English create structural saliencies for the child before they are functionally accessible. Functional identification eventually leads to structural separation.
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