The Bilingual Acquisition of English and Mandarin: Chinese Children in Australia

by Ruying Qi


This book is the first comprehensive examination of the bilingual acquisition of English and Mandarin in a child. It makes a much-needed contribution to the field of child language research, and, in particular, the research on bilingual children.

Firmly grounded in bilingual language acquisition theory and methodology, the book uses empirical data to assess the relation between the two languages of a bilingual child growing up in Sydney, Australia. It also addresses a range of theoretical and methodological questions that are central to the study of language acquisition, bilingualism and child development.

This book is the first detailed, systematic investigation of the language development of a child exposed to Mandarin and English from birth in an immigrant family in Australia. It is also the first longitudinal study of bilingual acquisition in a context-bound, one-language-one-environment situation. The vast majority of existing research studies one-parent-one-language situations.

The focus of the investigation reported in this book is on tracing the developmental route of person identification in the bilingual child in both languages from the age of 19 months to 4 years. Person identification is the precondition to socioemotional attachment and meaningful human social life, an important milestone in a child’s cognitive, interpersonal, and language development which has surprisingly long been neglected in bilingual research in spite of its importance.

This book addresses both pragmatic and semantic issues relating to pronoun usage in real life communication context, while investigating the child’s early word learning and syntactic development in each of the two languages. This addresses, in turn, a key issue in bilingual acquisition research of whether the early lexical and syntactic development is "separate" or "fused" in the early stages of development.

Additionally, the book explores the nature of the weaker language and bilingual acquisition strategies in relation to input and learning context while the two languages are in contact and interaction and it compares these and other findings with both monolingual and bilingual data. The overall aim of this study is three-fold: first, to improve our understanding of the process of bilingual first language acquisition in its own right; second, to contribute to a better understanding of child language acquisition processes in general; and third, to help bilingual families and educators to understand early language differentiation in bilinguals and manage possible interaction in language contact while maximising bilingual experiences.

This book will be an important resource for researchers, developmental psycholinguists, language educators, and clinical professionals from related disciplines. Parents who wish to raise their children to be bilingual will also benefit from this book.


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