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Processing and Production in Heritage Speakers: The Role of Disambiguating Cues

Project description

Shedding light on how heritage speakers process heritage language

Heritage speakers (HSs) are individuals who have learned a language at home as children. This language differs from the main language spoken in the community they live in. To date, little is known about how HSs process the heritage language in real-time. With a focus on Romanian HSs, with German as the second language, the EU-funded ProHeritageSpeakers project will, for the first time, examine whether HSs use morphosyntactic cues when comprehending heritage language input in real-time. It will also look into how the presence of similar grammatical information in the dominant second language modulates comprehension and production in the heritage language.


"Heritage speakers (HSs) are heterogeneous in terms of the outcomes of heritage (minority) language (HL) acquisition and they typically diverge from age-matched monolinguals when tested in comprehension and production, although HSs receive HL exposure from birth. At present, comparatively little is known about how HSs process the HL in real-time and if this is computationally more costly than for first language (L1) monolinguals. The ProHeritageSpeakers project focuses on Romanian HSs with L2 German and investigates, for the first time, whether HSs use morphosyntactic cues when comprehending HL input in real-time and how the presence of similar grammatical information in the dominant L2 modulates access to such cues in the HL. This will be done in two studies, one with children, one with adults, assessing online/offline comprehension and production of ""which""-questions in Romanian. On a theoretical level, this work will significantly contribute to the field of Heritage Language Bilingualism by showing whether HL processing time-course mirrors L1 time-course and to what extent L2 properties shape HL processing, thus leading to differences in acquisitional trajectories between HSs and L1 speakers. On a societal and educational level, the findings will be of interest to teachers, speech pathologists and immigrant parents. Gaining a clearer understanding of the mechanisms underlying language processing in HL learners, and how these compare to the HSs’ ability to produce HLs, may help elucidate ways in which HLs can be more effectively taught and maintained, which is of great importance for both the well-being of immigrants and for language preservation at the level of the community. If we can precisely delineate the type of information both child/adult HSs rely on during L1 comprehension, then we can collaborate with educators to practice and consolidate the HL, which, in turn, can have beneficial effects on the acquisition and consolidation of the language of schooling."



Net EU contribution
€ 174 806,40
Universitatsstrasse 10
78464 Konstanz

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Baden-Württemberg Freiburg Konstanz
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00