“Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?” Ditransitive and Passive Constructions in the English Production of Simultaneous Bilingual English Children

  • Silvia Sánchez-Calderón Universidad de Valladolid
  • Raquel Fernández-Fuertes Universidad de Valladolid


This article aims to shed light on the syntactic status attributed to ditransitive constructions— double object construction (DOC) and to/for-dative—with respect to which type of structure is syntactically transformed through a process analogous to that of passives. We will do so by providing an analysis of the ditransitives and passives that appear in the English production of a set of English/Spanish simultaneous bilingual twins. Our results show that DOCs start being produced earlier than to/for-datives. However, the age of onset of passives differs in the children though it is consistently produced later than ditransitives. Likewise, adult input goes hand in hand with the children’s production of ditransitives and passives since the high frequency of DOCs in this input, as opposed to the low frequency of to/for-datives and passives, is refected in child output. These fndings thus suggest that to/for-datives could be said to be derived from DOCs although, given the later acquisition of passives, no frm conclusions can be drawn as to whether this is done via a passive-like process.Keywords: ditransitives; double object constructions; to/for-dative structures; passives; bilingual acquisition; input . .

Author Biographies

Silvia Sánchez-Calderón, Universidad de Valladolid
Silvia Sánchez-Calderón is a PhD researcher in the Department of English at the University of Valladolid (Spain). At the moment she is working on her PhD dissertation on the acquisition of complex predicates by English and Spanish bilinguals and monolinguals. Her main research feld is the acquisition of ditransitive structures by monolingual English and Spanish children using data from the CHILDES project.
Raquel Fernández-Fuertes, Universidad de Valladolid
Raquel Fernández-Fuertes is a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Valladolid (Spain). She specializes in linguistic theory, comparative grammar and bilingual acquisition. Her research deals with how linguistic theory can account for the linguistic phenomena that emerge in language contact situations. She is the lead investigator of various funded research projects which deal with the latent relationship between native and non-native acquisition within the framework of generative theory and comparative grammar and which analyze spontaneous and experimental linguistic data from both simultaneous and sequential bilinguals.


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