Path and rate of development in child heritage speakers: Evidence from Greek subject/object form and placement

Evangelia Daskalaki, Vasiliki Chondrogianni, Elma Blom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the present study we investigated: (i) whether differences in accuracy between child heritage and child monolingual speakers signal differences in the path or merely in the rate of language development, and (ii) whether, independently of differences in the rate and/or path of development, child heritage speakers become more accurate as they grow older and accumulate more HL input. To address these questions, we focused on subject/object form and placement, and using an elicitation task, we compared children learning Greek as a heritage language in North America (78-226 months) with both age-matched (77-177 months) and younger monolingual speakers of Greek in Greece (42-69 months). The inclusion of the younger monolingual group enabled us to determine whether the different patterns observed in the language of child heritage speakers would also be attested in the language of monolingual children, at earlier developmental stages. Results supported two main conclusions: First, child heritage speakers may go through developmental stages not attested in L1 acquisition. These include the production of non-felicitous lexical subjects/objects in reference maintenance contexts and of ungrammatical preverbal subjects in embedded wh-movement dependencies. Second, differences in developmental stages do not necessarily entail differences in the outcome of language acquisition: At least in the domain of subject placement, child heritage speakers’ accuracy improves with age.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Publication statusSubmitted - 5 May 2021

Keywords

  • heritage language acquisition
  • monolingual acquisition
  • rate of development
  • path of development
  • subject/object use
  • Greek

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