Are heritage language speakers like native speakers? An investigation of the ultimate attainment of Italian object pronouns and restructuring verbs.

This project asks whether early exposure to an L2 spoken by one or both parents at home, namely the case of simultaneous bilinguals and heritage language speakers, confers advantages which lead to a more native-like attainment of said L2 compared to late adult L2 speakers. There is robust evidence in the literature that heritage language grammars in some instances develop in an incomplete manner, leading to ultimate attainment which mimics that of L2 speakers whose grammars remain non-native like despite conspicuous exposure to and instruction in the L2 (see Montrul, 2016 for a state-of-the-art). One especially vulnerable area in L2/heritage language acquisition is inflectional morphology, for which reason, knowledge of morphological and structural properties of Italian direct object clitics in L1 Swedish speakers were tested. In this study, (1) monolingual speakers were compared to a (2) group of highly-proficient heritage language speakers born in Sweden to one or both Italian parents and (3) a group of equally highly-proficient adult L2 speakers exposed to Italian after the age of 13. A syntactic priming task and timed grammaticality judgment task reveal, at this preliminary stage, that early exposure does not confer any advantages to the heritage language speakers insofar as their end-state grammars do not converge on the monolinguals’. Despite the heritage and L2 group showing remarkable similarities and differing from monolinguals, their ultimate attainment of object clitics is in no sense incomplete: differences between these two groups and the monolingual group are of a cognitive/processing rather than representational nature.

Arrangör/Organiser: Romling-forskningsnätverk
Kontakt/Contact: Francoise Sullet-Nylander
Ingen föranmälan krävs/No registration required