Heritage Speakers as Part of the Native Language Continuum


Wiese, Heike ; Alexiadou, Artemis ; Allen, Shanley E. M. ; Bunk, Oliver ; Gagarina, Natalia ; Iefremenko, Kateryna ; Martynova, Maria ; Pashkova, Tatiana ; Rizou, Vicky ; Schroeder, Christoph ; Shadrova, Anna ; Szucsich, Luka ; Tracy, Rosemarie ; Tsehaye, Wintai ; Zerbian, Sabine ; Zuban, Yulia


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.717973
URL: https://madoc.bib.uni-mannheim.de/61421
URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-614218
Document Type: Article
Year of publication: 2022
The title of a journal, publication series: Frontiers in Psychology
Volume: 12
Issue number: Article 717973
Page range: 1-19
Place of publication: Lausanne
Publishing house: Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN: 1664-1078
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Anglistik I (Seniorprofessur) (Tracy 2019-)
Pre-existing license: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Subject: 150 Psychology
400 Language, linguistics
Abstract: We argue for a perspective on bilingual heritage speakers as native speakers of both their languages and present results from a large-scale, cross-linguistic study that took such a perspective and approached bilinguals and monolinguals on equal grounds. We targeted comparable language use in bilingual and monolingual speakers, crucially covering broader repertoires than just formal language. A main database was the open-access RUEG corpus, which covers comparable informal vs. formal and spoken vs. written productions by adolescent and adult bilinguals with heritage-Greek, -Russian, and -Turkish in Germany and the United States and with heritage-German in the United States, and matching data from monolinguals in Germany, the United States, Greece, Russia, and Turkey. Our main results lie in three areas. (1) We found non-canonical patterns not only in bilingual, but also in monolingual speakers, including patterns that have so far been considered absent from native grammars, in domains of morphology, syntax, intonation, and pragmatics. (2) We found a degree of lexical and morphosyntactic inter-speaker variability in monolinguals that was sometimes higher than that of bilinguals, further challenging the model of the streamlined native speaker. (3) In majority language use, non-canonical patterns were dominant in spoken and/or informal registers, and this was true for monolinguals and bilinguals. In some cases, bilingual speakers were leading quantitatively. In heritage settings where the language was not part of formal schooling, we found tendencies of register leveling, presumably due to the fact that speakers had limited access to formal registers of the heritage language. Our findings thus indicate possible quantitative differences and different register distributions rather than distinct grammatical patterns in bilingual and monolingual speakers. This supports the integration of heritage speakers into the native-speaker continuum. Approaching heritage speakers from this perspective helps us to better understand the empirical data and can shed light on language variation and change in native grammars. Furthermore, our findings for monolinguals lead us to reconsider the state-of-the art on majority languages, given recurring evidence for non-canonical patterns that deviate from what has been assumed in the literature so far, and might have been attributed to bilingualism had we not included informal and spoken registers in monolinguals and bilinguals alike.
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