Constructively combining languages: The use of code-mixing in German-English bilingual child language acquisition

Antje Endesfelder Quick*, Elena Lieven, Michael Tomasello, Albert Backus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Language development in bilingual children is often related to differing levels of proficiency. Objective measurements of bilingual development include for example mean length of utterance (MLU). MLU is almost always calculated for each language context (including both monolingual and code-mixed utterances). In the current study, we analyzed the MLUs of three German-English bilingual children, aged 2;3-3;11 separately for the monolingual and code-mixed utterances. Our results showed that language preference was reflected in MLU values: the more children spoke in one language the higher the MLU was in that language. However, it was the mixed utterances that had the highest MLU for all three children. We support the results with a construction type analysis and suggest a potential usage-based explanation for these results based on individual differences in each child's developmental inventory of words and constructions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-409
Number of pages17
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • code-mixing
  • German - English
  • bilingual child
  • language proficiency
  • MLU

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