The development of verbal morphology and word order in an Indonesian-German bilingual child: A case study

Open access


The contexts and circumstances of the occurrence of cross-linguistic influence in bilingual children’s language development are still a matter of debate. The present study argues that in the early development of a bilingual child exposed to two typologically distinct languages (Indonesian and German), the child developed two separate linguistic systems. The child, raised in Indonesia, was exposed to Indonesian by her Indonesian mother and to German by her German father. The study focuses on the early stages of verbal morphology and word order, from ages 1;3 to 2;2. The corpus took the form of conversational text or speech based on spontaneous interactions in natural settings. The data was collected using diary records, supplemented by weekly video recordings. In analysing the data, two software systems were used: ELAN and Toolbox. The speech was segmented based on utterances. All verbal morphology and word order was coded. The results show that verbal morphology in Indonesian and German was acquired by the child at different times, with the development of German verbs occurring later than Indonesian verb acquisition. In addition, there is evidence of interaction between the two developing systems. Cross-linguistic interference was identified when the child used the Indonesian vocatives-predicate combination in German utterances while, at the same time, the child also applied the German verb-final clause structure in Indonesian utterances when she should have produced German utterances. Thus, the results from this case study suggest that both language external and internal factors account for the occurrence of cross-linguistic influence.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Adnyani N. L. P. S. 2014. Meaning in a bilingual child: a semantic view. Lingual: Journal of Language and Culture vol. 2 no. 3 pp. 1-7.

  • Adnyani N. L. P. S. and Pastika I. W. 2016. Phonological development in the early speech of an Indonesian-German bilingual child. Research in Language vol.14 no.2 pp. 329-350.

  • Alwi H. Dardjowidjojo S. Lapoliwa H. and Moeliono A. 2003. Tata bahasa baku bahasa Indonesia. Jakarta: Balai Pustaka.

  • Cahyono B. E. H. 2016. Kalimat Inversi dalam Bahasa Indonesia. Journal Indonesian Language Education and Literature vol. 1 no. 2 pp. 173-193.

  • Carranza L. 2007. Autonomy in simultaneous bilingualism: Evidence from an English-Spanish bilingual child. Kanina vol. 31 no. 2 pp. 97-134.

  • Clahsen H. 1986. Die profilanalyse [The profile analysis]. Berlin: Marhold.

  • Dardjowidjojo S. 2000. Echa: Kisah Pemerolehan Bahasa Anak Indonesia. Jakarta: PT. Gramedia Widiasarana Indonesia.

  • Dehouwer A. 1990. The acquisition of two languages from birth: A case study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Dehouwer A. 2005. Early bilingual acquisition: Focus on morphosyntax and the separate development hypothesis In: J. Kroll and A. De Groot eds. Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic aspects. New York: Oxford University Press pp. 30-48.

  • Deuchar M. and Quay S. 2000. Bilingual acquisition: Theoretical implications of a case study. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Dopke S. 1998. Competing language structures: The acquisition of verb placement by bilingual German-English children. Journal of Child Language vol. 25 pp. 555-584.

  • Ewing M. 2005. Colloquial Indonesian In: A. Alexander and N. Himmelmann eds. The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagaskar. London: Routledge.

  • GE H. Matthews S. Cheung L. Y. and YIP V. 2017. Bidirectional cross-linguistic influence in Cantonese-English bilingual children: the case of right-dislocation. First Language vol. 37 no. 3 pp. 231-251.

  • Genesee F. 2001. Bilingual first language acquisition: Exploring the limits of the language faculty. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics vol. 21 pp. 153-170.

  • Genske K. 2014. Early child bilingualism: Cross-linguistic influenece in the simultaneous acquisition of German and English. (Thesis). Sydney: Macquarie University

  • Gil D. and Tadmor U. 2007. The MPI-EVA Jakarta child language database. A joint project of the Department of Linguistics Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Center for Language and Culture Studies Atma Jaya Catholic University.

  • Grosjean F. 1982. Life with two languages. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  • Herve C. Serratrice L. Corley M. 2016. Dislocations in French–English bilingual children: An elicitation study. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 19 no. 5 pp. 987-1000.

  • Hulk A. and Müller N. 2000. Bilingual first language acquisition at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 3 no. 3 pp. 227-244.

  • Kang S. 2013. The role of language dominance in cross-linguistic syntactic influence: A Korean child’s use of null subjects in attriting English. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 16 no. 1 pp. 219-230.

  • Kauschke C. and Hofmeister C. 2002. Early lexical development in German: A study on vocabulary growth and vocabulary composition during the second and third year of life. Journal of Child Language vol. 29 pp. 735-757.

  • Kridalaksana H. 2005. Kelas Kata dalam Bahasa Indonesia. Jakarta: PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

  • Kridalaksana H. 2014. Introduction to word formation and word classes in Indonesian. Jakarta: Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia.

  • Kupisch T. 2007. Determiners in bilingual German-Italian children: What they tell us about the relation between language influence and language dominance. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 10 no. pp. 57-78.

  • Lanza E. 1992. Can bilingual two-year-olds code-switch? Journal of Child Language vol.19 pp. 633-658.

  • MeiseL J. 1989. Early differentiation of languages in bilingual children. In: K. Hyltenstam and L. Obler eds. Bilingualism across the lifespan: In health and pathology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press pp. 13-40.

  • Meisel J. 2007. The weaker language in early child bilingualism: Acquiring a first language as a second language? Applied Psycholinguistics vol 28 no. 03 pp. 495-514.

  • Mills A. 1985. The Acquisition of German. In: D. I. Slobin ed. The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition volume 1: The data. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates pp. 141-254.

  • Mishina-mori S. 2002. Language differentiation of the two languages in early bilingual development: A case study of Japanese/English bilingual children. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching vol. 40 no. 3 pp. 211-233.

  • Mishina-mori S. 2005. Autonomous and interdependent development of two language systems in Japanese/English simultaneous bilinguals: Evidence from question formation. First Language vol. 25 no. 3 pp. 291-315.

  • Müller N. 2008. Bilingual first language acquisition at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. EUROSLA Year Book vol. 8 pp. 52-78.

  • Müller N. 1998. Transfer in bilingual first language acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 1 no. 3 pp. 151-171.

  • Müller N. and HULK A. C. 2001. Crosslinguistic influence in bilingual language acquisition; Italian and French as recipient languages. Bilingualism: language and cognition vol. 4 no. 1 pp. 1-21.

  • Myers-scotton C. 2006. Multiple voices: An introduction to bilingualism. Oxford: Blacwell Publishing.

  • Nicoladis E. 1998. First clues to the existence of two input languages: Pragmatic and lexical differentiation in a bilingual child. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition pp. 105-116.

  • Nicoladis E. 2012. Cross-linguistic influence in French–English bilingual children’s possessive constructions. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 15 no. 2 pp. 320-328.

  • Paradis J. and Genesee F. 1996. Syntactic acquisition in bilingual children: Autonomous or interdependent? Studies in Second Language Acquisition vol. 18 no. 1 pp. 1-25.

  • Paradis J. and Navarro S. 2003. Subject realization and crosslinguistic interference in the bilingual acquisition of Spanish and English: What is the role of the input? Journal of Child Language 30 pp. 371-393.

  • Poeppel D. and Wexler K. 1993. The full competence hypothesis of clause structure in German. Language vol. 69 pp. 1-33.

  • Schlyter S. 1993. The weaker language in bilingual Swedish-French children. In: K. Hyltenstam and A. Viberg eds. Progression & regression in language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press pp. 289-308.

  • Serratrice L. 2001. The emergence of verbal morphology and the lead-lag pattern issue in bilingual acquisition. In: J. Cenoz and F. Genesee eds. Trends in bilingual acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company pp. 43-70.

  • Serratrice L. Sorace A. and Paoli S. 2004. Crosslinguistic influence at the syntax–pragmatics interface: Subjects and objects in English–Italian bilingual and monolingual acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 7 no. 3 pp. 183-205.

  • Sneddon J. N. 2006. Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

  • Sneddon J. Adelaar A. Djenar D. and Ewing M. 2010. Indonesian reference grammar. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

  • Sorace A. Serratrice L. 2009. Internal and external interfaces in bilingual language development: Beyond structural overlap. International Journal of Bilingualism vol. 13 no. 2 pp. 195-210.

  • Soriente A. 2007. Cross-linguistics and cognitive structures in the acquisition of wh-questions in an Indonesian-Italian bilingual child. In: I. Kecskes and L. Albertazzi eds. Cognitive aspects of bilingualism. Dordrecht: Springer pp. 325-362.

  • Soriente A. 2014. Language development of bilingual children: A case study in the acquisition of tense and aspect in an Italian-Indonesian child. Wacana vol. 15 no. 1 pp. 132-165.

  • Sugono D. 1991. Pelesapan subjek dalam bahasa Indonesia. Jakarta: Fakultas Pascasarjana Universitas Indonesia.

  • Wei L. 2005. The bilingualism reader. London: Routledge.

  • Wijnen F. Kempen M. and Gillis S. 2001. Root infinitives in Ducth early child language: An effect of input? Journal of Child Language vol. 28 no.3 pp. 629-660.

  • Yip V. and Matthews S. 2000. Syntactic transfer in Cantonese-English bilingual child. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition vol. 3 no. 3 pp. 193-208.

  • Yip V. and Matthews S. 2006. Assessing language dominancein bilingual acquisition: A case for mean length utterances differentials. Language Assessment Quarterly vol. 3 no. 2 pp. 97-116.

  • Yip V. and Matthews S. 2007. The bilingual child: Early development and language contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Yulianto B. 2009. Perkembangan fonologis bahasa anak. Semarang: Unesa University Press.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.25

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.144
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.447

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 685 222 4
PDF Downloads 459 129 5