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Cross-linguistic influence in bilingual productions of the English past tense in Arabic heritage speakers of Australian English

Robert Mailhammer ORCID logo and Ronia Zeidan
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


This paper examines cross-linguistic influence in morphology among adult monolingual and heritage speakers (Arabic-English and Chinese-English). Participants performed a task requiring them to form past tenses for English nonce words. Arabic-English bilinguals produced significantly more vowel change past tenses than either English monolinguals or Chinese-English bilinguals. We attribute the preponderance of vowel change past tenses to cross-linguistic influence of Arabic, as vowel change is a dominant morphological property in Arabic but not in English or Chinese. These results support dynamic models of bilingualism with constantly active and interacting languages and contribute to the phenomenology of crosslinguistic interference.

Funding source: Australian Research Council

Award Identifier / Grant number: DP130103935

Funding statement: This paper has been presented at various conferences. We thank the audiences for valuable feedback. Thanks also go to Christine Dimroth and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. We also thank Amanda Rysling for her help with the statistics and for comments on an earlier version, and Cathi Best, Hans Boas and Ruying Qi for providing feedback on various drafts. All remaining errors are our own. We also gratefully acknowledge the support from the Australian Research Council (Funder Id:, DP130103935).


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6 Appendix

Verbs and sample carrier sentences


I’m _______________________, and you should too.  Last week you __________________________, why won’t you now?

I know that _____________________ isn’t good for you. I know that because I ___________________ a lot, when I was a teenager.

We’re reading a book about ___________________.  My friend __________________ once before, but this will be my first time.

Received: 2018-07-30
Accepted: 2019-07-22
Published Online: 2019-10-02

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston