Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Perpiñan, Sílvia


This dissertation investigated the acquisition of Catalan and Spanish morphosyntax by early Catalan-Spanish bilinguals living in Catalunya, a province of Spain with widespread societal bilingualism. Specifically, it focused on the acquisition of six clitic pronouns in Catalan that have different representations in Spanish. Of the six, partitive en, oblique en, locative hi, and oblique hi do not have direct counterparts in Spanish, and correspond to ellipsis in the adult grammar. The accusative neuter clitic ho and masculine clitic l constitute a distinction based on specificity and gender not made in Spanish and both correspond to Spanish lo.

With the help of a background questionnaire, participants (N=296) in this study were divided by language dominance and age of onset of acquisition into three groups: Catalan-Dominant (CD), Balanced Bilinguals (BB), and Spanish-Dominant (SD). In turn, participants were subdivided into five age groups, ages 4-8. Bi-directional data from an oral production task revealed significant differences with respect to clitic production in Catalan and clitic production and argument ellipsis in Spanish across both dominance groups and age groups.

In Catalan, the CDs are the first to completely acquire these clitics (when acquisition takes place within the ages tested), with BBs and SDs lagging behind and often failing to converge with CDs by age 8. In Spanish the BBs perform like SDs from the first stages with respect to the ellipses and production of lo. The CDs converge with these two groups from age 4 with the exception of clitic lo and the ellipsis of the partitive argument. In contexts that would elicit partitive en and neuter ho in Catalan, CDs often recycle the Catalan clitics in Spanish.

Implications in terms of the role that 1) markedness of the target structure, 2) age of onset of acquisition, and 3) input quantity and quality play in cases of 2L1 and cL2 acquisition are discussed.