I am a PhD student at the Language Development Department of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, supervised by Professor Evan Kidd and Dr Sharon Unsworth. I am interested in how bilingual children learn and use two languages at the same time. I am planning to conduct several studies in Ireland with children who speak both Irish Gaelic and English.
While bilingual children are very good at keeping their two languages apart, it can happen that their languages influence each other. For example, imagine a child speaking Irish and English looking through a picture book. She could say something like “the hen little” in English. The word order here is incorrect in English, but it would be correct in Irish. In English, the adjective comes before the noun (little hen) but in Irish, the adjective follows the noun (chearc bheag = hen little). Therefore, the Irish-English bilingual child might have used a grammatical rule of the Irish language in an English sentence.
This phenomenon is called Cross-Linguistic Influence (CLI). I am particularly interested in how and when CLI happens. A key question of my research is whether CLI happens more often when bilingual children are more dominant in one of their languages, so when they use or hear one language more often than the other one.