Child First Language Acquisition of English and Spanish Prepositional and Double Object Constructions

  • Silvia Sánchez Calderón Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)


This study examines the acquisition of dative alternation (DA), namely, prepositional structures and double object constructions (DOCs), in English and Spanish. The analysis of Spanish and English child monolingual data and adult input available in CHILDES reveals a similar pattern of emergence of prepositional and DOCs in the two language groups. This suggests a lack of derivation between the two structures in the two languages, assuming that more complex derived structures emerge later than nonderived ones. This is argued to be the case despite the difference between English and Spanish DA, as per the Complex Predicate Parameter. The delay in the onset and the lower incidence of English and Spanish prepositional DA seems to be related to the amount of exposure in the adult input. These findings, therefore, suggest that children acquire the similar syntactic nonderivational relationship that underlies DA constructions both in English and in Spanish. Besides, adult input factors seem to play a similar role in the children’s preference for the use of DOCs rather than prepositional structures in the two languages.

Author Biography

Silvia Sánchez Calderón, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Silvia Sánchez Calderón holds a PhD in English linguistics and is a junior lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED). She specializes in linguistic theory, comparative grammar and bilingual and monolingual acquisition. Her main research field is the acquisition of complex predicates by English and Spanish bilingual and monolingual children.


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