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The Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis and the language development of Yucatec Maya -Spanish bilingual children

Michael D Vrooman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis as developed by Cummins (1978) argues that certain first language (L1) knowledge can be positively transferred during the process of second language (L2) acquisition. The L1 linguistic knowledge and skills that a child possesses can be extremely instrumental to the development of corresponding abilities in the L2. An integral component of these facilitative aspects of language influence is that the L1 be sufficiently developed prior to the extensive exposure to the L2 as would be found, for example, in an educational environment. An additional theoretical framework that has motivated this study incorporates principles of Universal Grammar, namely, that there are innate properties of language shared by the human species, and that language acquisition is the result of the interaction between these biologically determined aspects of language with the learner's linguistic environment. The principal goal of this dissertation is to examine children's knowledge of one area of Yucatec Maya L1 syntax, specifically, the word order of simple transitive sentences. By means of an experiment conducted with 28 Mayan children of 4 and 5 years of age, data were gathered and analyzed. Overall, the findings suggest that the subjects of the study are still in the process of acquiring the syntactic structure under investigation, that their L1 is still developing. Very few of the subjects demonstrated mastery of the structure under investigation. With regards to pedagogical concerns within the context of minority language education, the potentiality for these findings to enhance or inhibit the subsequent acquisition of Spanish as an L2 is examined.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Higher education|Science education

Recommended Citation

Vrooman, Michael D, "The Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis and the language development of Yucatec Maya -Spanish bilingual children" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988850.