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 / Description of output

We investigated: (1) whether differences in accuracy between heritage speakers (HS) and monolingual speakers (MS) signal differences in the path or merely in the rate of language development, and (2) whether, independently of these differences, HS become more accurate as they grow older.

Using an elicitation task, we collected data from three groups of speakers of Greek: HS in the United States and Canada (78–226 months), MS of the same age (77–177 months), and younger MS (42–69 months). In terms of structures, we focused on two phenomena that are encoded differently in Greek and English: subject/object form in reference maintenance contexts and subject placement in embedded wh-dependencies.

Data and Analysis
Data were analyzed with mixed-effects logistic regression models.

We found that the heritage group had a lower accuracy and produced different error patterns than both monolingual groups. Specifically, only the heritage group produced non-felicitous lexical subjects/objects in reference maintenance contexts and ungrammatical preverbal subjects in embedded wh-structures. Accuracy, though, increased with age. Furthermore, current amount of heritage language (HL) input and generation, which were included as covariates, emerged as significant predictors in some or all of the conditions.

The inclusion of a younger monolingual group helped us determine whether the different patterns observed in the language of HS are also attested in the language of MS at earlier developmental stages. The inclusion of a wide age range helped us determine whether, independently of differences in the path/rate of development, HS become more accurate as they grow older and accumulate the necessary amount of HL input.

HS may go through developmental stages not attested in L1 acquisition. However, differences in developmental stages do not necessarily entail differences in the outcome of language acquisition. HS’ accuracy may continue to increase, provided that they continue using their HL.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Early online date9 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Aug 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

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


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