Development of Cantonese Nominal Structure in a Bilingual Child: Some Preliminary Findings

Yike Yang, Caicai Zhang, Yunyi Hu, Yan Ping Helena Lau, Bei Li

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


Research on child bilingualism has focused extensively on children speaking Indo-European languages, which share typological similarities within language pairs. It is thus proposed that investigating language pairs that are more typologically distant (e.g., English and Chinese languages) would bring more insights into the literature. In the very few studies on bilingualism involving Chinese languages, however, conflicting results have been found. Some studies reveal comparable performance in bilingual and monolingual children, while others suggest divergence between them and produce solid evidence of transfer of the two languages studied. This study attempts to investigate how nominal structure is developed in the early Cantonese of a Cantonese-English bilingual child, and whether there are differences between the acquisition sequences of Cantonese nominal structure in bilingual and monolingual children. Our data were obtained from a longitudinal corpus via the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) archive. The child’s spontaneous utterances containing nominal structure were extracted for further analyses. Our preliminary findings show that the developmental sequences of the bilingual child were similar to that of the monolingual child. Bare nouns and pronouns were among the first to emerge, and wh-words, numerals and the possessive marker were among the latest to emerge. However, the bilingual child’s rate of acquisition seems to differ from that of the monolingual child. Data from more children collected over a longer period of recording sessions are needed to confirm our initial observations about the sequence and rate of nominal acquisition by this bilingual child.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 2018 International Conference on Bilingual Learning and Teaching
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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