Studies examining age of onset (AoO) effects in childhood bilingualism have provided mixed results as to whether early sequential bilingual children (eL2) differ from simultaneous bilingual children (2L1) and L2 children on the acquisition of morphosyntax. Differences between the three groups have been attributed to other factors such as length of exposure (LoE), language abilities and the phenomenon to be acquired. The present study investigates whether four-to-five-year-old German-speaking eL2 children differ from 2(L1) children on the acquisition of wh-questions, and whether these differences can be explained by AoO, LoE and/or knowledge of case-marking. The 2L1 children outperformed the eL2 children in terms of accuracy; however, both bilingual groups exhibited similar error patterns. This suggests that 2L1 and eL2 bilingual children are sensitive to the same morphosyntactic cues, when comprehending wh-questions. Finally, children’s performance on the different types of wh-questions was explained by a combination of knowledge of case-marking, LoE and AoO.
- age of onset effects
- case marking