Quechua-Spanish bilingualism: Interference and convergence in functional categories

Quechua-Spanish bilingualism: Interference and convergence in functional categories. By Liliana Sánchez. (Language acquisition and language disorders 35.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2003. Pp. x, 189. ISBN 1588114716. $119 (Hb).

Reviewed by J. Clancy Clements, Indiana University

The present book examines the phenomena of interference and convergence in a Spanish-Quechua contact situation in Peru. The study, following a universal-grammar-type model, examines the issues of interference and convergence with a focus on functional categories within the mind of a bilingual person. As defined by Sánchez, functional interference is ‘the activation of functional features in one language triggered by input in the other language’ in the bilingual mind (13). It is argued that this activation process generates syntactic changes in the bilingual grammar of the speaker. Functional convergence, by contrast, is defined here as ‘the specification of a common set of features shared by the equivalent functional categories in the two languages spoken by the bilingual individual’ (15). This specification occurs when a set of features not activated by one of the languages is frequently activated by input in the other language within the mind of the bilingual speaker. These functional features are assumed to behave independently of lexical items. That is, the interference among members of lexical categories does not necessarily generate interference of functional categories.

The data used for the study were collected from three informant groups with the help of a data-elicitation task designed by S. The groups consisted of one ‘monolingual’ urban group of thirty-six Spanish-speaking children who had passive knowledge of Quechua but did not speak it, and two actively bilingual groups (numbering thirty and twenty-eight subjects respectively) from two different rural areas. The instruments used to collect the data were a picture-based storytelling task and a picture-sentence matching task (in Appendices 1 and 2).

After a detailed discussion of the data, S presents her case that the results of the studies are evidence of functional interference in Quechua-Spanish bilingual children, specifically with reference to a range of phenomena: in bilingual Quechua, predominance of SVO instead of SOV order, dropping of the Quechua accusative marker –ta, and the emergence of an indefinite determiner; in bilingual Spanish, the gender-neutral specification of clitics and the emergence of null objects as continuing topics.

In her conclusions, S speaks about the implications of the results of her study for bilingual acquisition theories and mentions ideas for further research, hypothesizing what other types of interference would likely be found in the contact situation she has studied (e.g. evidence of evidentiality marking in Spanish due to the influence of the corresponding functional categories in Quechua). She includes two additional appendices that contain examples of two varieties of Quechua that were studied, as well as lists of transitive verbs from the Spanish and Quechua varieties that were analyzed. The type of analysis will be of interest to universal-grammar-oriented scholars, but the data themselves, the descriptions of the contact situations, and the instrument the author developed to elicit her data will be of keen interest to all researchers and students of contact-induced language change and language change in general.