Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 8, 2017

Bilinguals and knowledge of language: a commentary to “Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory”

  • Itziar Laka EMAIL logo


How infant and adult humans learn languages and what this tells us about the various aspects of the language system is currently a central topic in linguistic research, one that more and more includes bilingualism and language attrition in its embrace. Despite the centrality of the problem of language acquisition for Generative Grammar, it is fair to say that other modes of language learning are now entering the arena of discussion, having shown their potential for discovery in Cognitive Science at large. Some aspects of grammatical knowledge that are hard to acquire and yield differences between native and non-native speakers reveal that language learning is indeed a special type of learning, which in turn reveals that knowing more about these entails knowing more about language.

Funding statement: This work was supported by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration [613465 (AThEME)]; Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad [FFI2015-64183-P]; Basque Government [IT665-13].


The author is grateful to Pedro Guijarro Fuentes for the opportunity to contribute to this Special Issue with a commentary and for all the feedback provided. Mistakes and confusions remain solely mine.


Baker, M. 2001. The atoms of language. New York: Basic Books.Search in Google Scholar

Baker, M. 2003. Linguistic differences and language design. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7(8). 349–353.Search in Google Scholar

Bel, A., E. García-Alcaraz & E. Rosado. 2016. Reference comprehension and production in bilingual Spanish: The view from null subject languages. In Anahí Alba de la Fuente, Elena Valenzuela & Cristina Martínez-Sanz (eds.), Language acquisition beyond parameters, Studies in honour of Juana M. Liceras, 37–70. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Search in Google Scholar

Bosch, L. & N. Sebastián-Gallés. 2001. Evidence of early language discrimination abilities in infants from Bilingual environments. Infancy 2(1). 29–49.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, N. 1959. Verbal behavior. By B. F. Skinner. Language 35. 26–58.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, N. 1986. Knowledge of language: Its nature, origins and use. New York: Praeger.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, N. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Costa, A. & M. Santesteban. 2004. Lexical access in bilingual speech production: Evidence from language switching in highly proficient bilinguals and L2 learners. Journal of Memory and Language 50(4). 491–511.Search in Google Scholar

Domínguez, L. 2013. Understanding interfaces: Second language acquisition and native language attrition of Spanish subject realization and word order variation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Search in Google Scholar

Evans, N. & S. C. Levinson. 2009. The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32. 429–492.Search in Google Scholar

Gervain, J., F. Macagno, S. Cogoi, M. Peña & J. Mehler. 2008. The neonate brain detects speech structure. PNAS 105(37). 14222–14227.Search in Google Scholar

Jakobson, R. 1941. Kindersprache, aphasie und allgemeine lautgesetze. English version (1968) Child Language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals. New York: Mouton Publishers.Search in Google Scholar

Kayne, R. 1994. The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Montrul, S. 2011. Interfaces and incomplete acquisition. Lingua 121(4). 591–604.Search in Google Scholar

Montrul, S. & C. Rodríguez Louro. 2006. Beyond the syntax of the null subject parameter: A look at the discourse-pragmatic distribution of null and overt subjects by L2 learners of Spanish. In Vincent Torrens & Linda Escobar (eds.), The acquisition of syntax in romance languages, 401–418. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Search in Google Scholar

Roberts, I. & A. Roussou. 2003. Syntactic change: A minimalist approach to grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Rooryck, J., N.V. Smith, A. Liptak & D. Blakemore. 2010. The Myth of language universals. Lingua 120(12). 2651–27.Search in Google Scholar

Saffran, J., R. Aslin & E. Newport. 1996. Statistical learning by 8-month old infants. Science 274. 1926–1928.Search in Google Scholar

Schütze, C. & J. Sprouse. 2014. Judgment Data. In Devyani Sharma & Rob Podesva (eds.), Research methods in linguistics, 27–50. New York: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sorace, A. 2003. Near-nativeness. In M. Long & C. Doughty (eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition, 130–152. Oxford: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Sorace, A. 2011. Pinning down the concept of “interface” in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 1(1). 1–33.Search in Google Scholar

Sorace, A. & F. Filiaci. 2006. Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research 22(3). 339–368.Search in Google Scholar

Werker, J.F. & R.C. Tees. 1984. Cross-language speech perception: Evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life. Infant Behavior Development 7. 49–63.Search in Google Scholar

White, Lydia. 1989. Universal grammar and second language acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Search in Google Scholar

White, Lydia. 2003. Second language acquisition and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Yang, C.L. 2002. Knowledge and learning in natural language. Ney York: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Zawiszewski, A., E. Gutiérrez, B. Fernández & I. Laka. 2011. Language distance and non-native syntactic processing: Evidence from event-related potentials. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 14(03). 400–411.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-11-08
Published in Print: 2022-01-27

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 1.12.2023 from
Scroll to top button