Productive Trilingualism in Infancy: What Makes it Possible?

Simona Montanari


This article summarizes the results of a case study on the development of three languages in a child exposed to Tagalog,Spanish, and English from birth. The paper brings together findings from phonology, lexicon, word order, andlanguage choice, providing a detailed picture of the emergence of the four components of three languages in infancy.The paper further explores the possible mechanisms upon which multiple language representations could be built, andthen, it examines what characteristics of the environment and of the individual child might lead to the development andactive use of three languages in infancy. The results suggest that the build-up of multiple language systems mightfollow naturally from trilingual exposure; yet, factors such as quantity and quality of language exposure, linguisticrelatedness among languages, the child’s personality, and the nature of the social context may dramatically influencetrilingual competence in infancy and early childhood.

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World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

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