The components of bilingual proficiency

Norbert Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Research reports from three areas of investigation (exceptional bilingualism, early differentiation in childhood bilingualism, and language mixing) are discussed with the purpose of exploring the applicability of the concept of modularity. Components of bilingual proficiency can be studied from a modular perspective along two dimensions: (1) autonomy and interaction between representations of the bilingual's two languages, (2) degrees and kinds of autonomy of Conceptual Structures from the linguistic structures of both languages, and how these domains interact. A model of bilingual proficiency is proposed based on an adaptation of Jackendoff's Tripartite Parallel Architecture (TPA). Jackendoff's (2002) assessment of Levelt's (1999) theory of speech processing represents an important attempt to promote an interdisciplinary exchange around a conception of modularity that is more in line with recent psycholinguistic research. De Bot's (2000 /1992) bilingual adaptation of Levelt's model is discussed as a key contribution to a developing convergence, taking advantage of the special opportunities that the study of bilingualism offers to the discussion. While a number of points of divergence remain between the Levelt and de Bot models on the one hand, and Jackendoff's TPA and the proposed Bilingual TPA on the other, it is not clear if these differences are of substance or rather the result of analyzing bilingual proficiency from alternate vantage points. The proposal offered for discussion in this paper is inclined toward the latter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-189
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • childhood bilingualism
  • cross linguistic influence
  • modularity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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