The present article poses some fundamental questions related to bilingualism and to the acquisition of two phonological components, by very young children. It discusses different types of bilingualism and their outcomes. After a brief consideration of alleged pros and cons of bilingualism brought up in the past decades, two perspectives of bilingualism are sketched—psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic—and certain aspects of bilingual child phonology are presented from each of these points of view. The essential issue is whether different outcomes of bilingual child phonology are predictable, and to find the crucial criteria to support the predictions. Finally, the discussion addresses some basic questions about bilingual acquisition, and ends with a summary of various types of cross-linguistic interaction.
This chapter provides a selective overview of recent research on the phonetics and phonology of bilingualism. The central idea put forth in the chapter is that, in bilingualism and second-language learning, cross-language categories are involved in complex interactions that can take many forms, including assimilations and dissimilations. The sound categories of the two languages of a bilingual seem to coexist in a common representational network and appear to be activated simultaneously in the processing of speech in real time, but some degree of specificity is attested. The chapter then goes on to explore some of the characteristics of cross-language sound interactions, including the fact that these interactions are pliable and appear to be mediated by the structure of the lexicon.