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

Silvia Sánchez-Calderón, Raquel Fernández-Fuertes


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 . .

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