Research Topic

The Grammar of Multilingualism

About this Research Topic

Since the early days of modern formal approaches to grammar, most work has been based on the language of monolingual humans. Less work has been conducted based on data from speakers who possess more than one language. Although important insights have been gained from a narrow monolingual focus, there is every ...

Since the early days of modern formal approaches to grammar, most work has been based on the language of monolingual humans. Less work has been conducted based on data from speakers who possess more than one language. Although important insights have been gained from a narrow monolingual focus, there is every reason to believe that bi- and multilingual data (henceforth, multilingual data) can inform linguistic theory. A lot of ongoing work demonstrates that this is indeed the case. It has especially been the case for work on heritage languages (i.e. languages other than the dominant language (or languages) in a given social context), but increasingly also for multilingual phenomena more generally. Nevertheless, a lot of work remains to be done, especially since most formal approaches to grammar are not necessarily construed to accommodate multilingual data. In addition, methodological advances make it possible to make progress in studying multilingual speakers in new ways, thus providing important new data from corpora and various experimental techniques.


The aim of this Research Topic is to investigate aspects of formal grammar in multilingual speakers. This includes areas such as syntax, semantics, morphology, and phonology. How grammatical properties are acquired and processed are also of great interest. In general, approaches that try to integrate experimental and theoretical work are especially welcome. Analyses can either focus on one particular phenomenon, e.g., code-switching of determiners or the acquisition of definiteness by bilingual speakers, or they can illuminate the relationship between code-switching and borrowing or the nature of grammatical competence in heritage speakers. Ideally the Topic would cover both in depth case studies and broader theoretical approaches to multilingual phenomena. We welcome original research articles, reviews, hypothesis and theory articles, methodological articles, and brief commentaries/opinion pieces.


Some possible topics could include the following. EMPIRICAL: heritage languages, code-switching, borrowing, language mixing, transfer, language contact, bi- and multilingual acquisition, word-internal vs. word-internal mixing, social aspects of grammar. TOOLS: eye-tracking, self-paced reading, written and spoken corpora, acceptability judgments, electrophysiology, cross-language comparisons. THEORETICAL: lexical and functional structure, lexicalism, neo-constructivism, interfaces, Distributed Morphology, matrix language frame model, universal bilingualism.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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