Ultimate attainment in the production of narratives by Chinese-English bilinguals
MetadataShow full item record
Over the past three decades or so, tremendous studies in the field of second language and bilingual acquisition have demonstrated variable rates of success with which children and adults achieve native-like proficiency in a second language (L2). Research has traditionally focused on the effects that age-of-acquisition has on the degree to which the end state of L2 knowledge resembles that of a native speaker (NS). The underlying assumption behind this focus is that the NSs with whom L2 learners are being compared are monolingual. This assumption and the monolingual bias have been challenged in recent years, however, with the recognition that L2 learners are bilingual individuals and that there is a need to pay more attention to the effect of bilingualism on L2 ultimate attainment (Bylund, Hyltenstam, & Abrahamsson, 2013). As a direct response to this paradigm shift, the goal of this dissertation is to investigate the relative contributions of the age-of-acquisition and bilingualism effect in the L2 ultimate attainment of Chinese-English bilinguals. The focus is on syntax-discourse interface in the production of narratives by early and late Chinese-English bilinguals. Oral narratives elicited from 12 Chinese monolinguals, 12 early Chinese-English bilinguals, 12 late Chinese-English bilinguals, and 12 English NSs were coded and analyzed for coherence and cohesion, preferred argument structure and passive structures and alternatives. There are two important findings. First, both early and late Chinese-English bilinguals showed patterns of narrative production in English that resembled those found in the Chinese narratives of monolingual Chinese speakers. We interpret this as evidence for the effect of bilingualism, and more specifically crosslinguistic influence. Second, there were areas of narrative production in English where the early bilinguals were found to be different from both the late bilinguals and English NSs. We interpret this as evidence for the interaction between age-of-acquisition and bilingualism. It provides support for the contention that ‘an explanation of non-native behavior based on bilingualism effects does not necessarily have to be invoked at the expense of age-of-acquisition effects’ (Bylund, et al., 2013, p. 96). These findings contribute to our understanding of L2 ultimate attainment, especially at the grammar-discourse interface.