Turkish Language and Immigration Project (TULIP)

The project describes, compares and explains the bilingual language competence in the first and second language of Turkish adolescents in Europe (especially Germany), by comparison with control groups of returnees to Turkey and monolingual Turkish students in Turkey.

Describing and explaining the language competence of Turkish students is important for researchers in Bilingualism, wishing to obtain a better understanding of the issue of ultimate attainment in bilingual acquisition. While many studies focus on bilingual acquisition in childhood, little is known about the levels of attainment achieved by bilinguals in adulthood.

The question we attempt to answer in this project is ‘to what extent should Turkish-German bilinguals in Germany be considered as ‘incomplete learners’ of their first or their second languages?’ The groups under investigation are particularly relevant for the discussion about incomplete acquisition, because we are able to compare their proficiency profiles with those of returnee groups, who have the same linguistic and social backgrounds, but have returned to Turkey in early adolescence. While most studies only use monolingual control groups, a bilingual control group can give us information about the importance of changes in the quantity and the quality of input on the development of bilingual proficiency. The originality of the study resides in the fact that, so far, little investigation has been undertaken into returnees  and the fact that these groups can tell us much about delayed acquisition of a mother tongue in post-puberty (i.e. after the so-called Critical Period).

The project will provide evidence for the way language shapes thought, through an analysis of lexicalisation patterns found in the expression of motion events in Turkish and German. Givon (1997) and Slobin (1994, 2003 et seq) have shown that Turkish on the one hand and the Germanic languages (eg. English and German) on the other hand differ in systematic ways from each other in the way they encode movement, and there is initial evidence that Turkish-German bilinguals use patterns borrowed from German to describe motion events.

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