One of the major issues facing researchers in the field of bilingualism is how to model the complex and dynamic nature of bilingual syntactic representations as distinct from processing preferences or strategies. While previous work in the area of distinguishing representation at the lexical level and processing has become mainstream (Kroll and Tokowicz 2005, Brysbaert and Duyck 2010 ), it still requires a counterpart in terms of syntactic approaches. In this presentation, the concept of bilingual alignments is discussed as a conceptual tool to incorporate the role of storage and retrieval of units from different language components in the syntactic development of bilinguals. Alignments are sets of units from different components (lexical semantics, syntax, phonology, information structure) that are linked for storage purposes in the mind of bilingual individuals. However, they may not necessarily reflect grammatical representations. They are permeable and allow for the generation of units not present in the input (Sánchez 2019).
Evidence in support of this proposal comes from reanalysis of data from previous studies on different language pairs (Quechua-Spanish, Mandarin-Spanish) and from Giancaspro and Sánchez’s (In prep.) study on the heritage acquisition of Spanish inalienable possession structures involving a clitic1 with person features and a definite article2 without person features in the DP (e.g., me1 rompí [el2 brazoDP]) (Guéron 1983, 1985, 2006). These structures differ from their English counterpart that has only a DP-internal possessive pronoun3 marked for person (e.g., I broke [my3 armDP]). The findings in this study show a continuum of acceptability and production of structural possibilities in heritage speakers with advanced and intermediate levels of proficiency. The continuum includes: person features on the applicative projection headed by the clitic (Cuervo 2003), person features on the clitic and the determiner, and person features on the determiner only. The concept of bilingual alignments is explored to better understand the source of the continuum and the difference in results between a receptive and a production task.