El tema que hablamos de: Spanish Heritage Speakers and Language Maintenance in the U.S. and France

Ashley Ghodsian, Madeleine Kostant, Maxime Guerra, E Perez

There are various classifications for bilingual speakers in the formal study of bilingualism. Among these are heritage speakers, who have acquired a minority language in the home prior to gaining dominance in their majority language of the society upon being exposed to it in the community and in school. This results in unbalanced bilingualism in detriment to the minority (or heritage) language, a process of grammatical loss or weakening known as attrition. The emphasis of this study is whether this attrition in the heritage language can be attributed to transfer from the majority language, or if it is due to general loss of input or other extralinguistic factors. In order to accomplish this task, this study analyzed a specific syntactic (or sentence structure) construction, prepositional relative clauses, in populations of English-dominant and French-dominant heritage speakers (“HSs”) of Spanish. We hypothesized that previously reported attrition in the grammars of English-dominant Spanish HSs was due to dominant language transfer from English and that French-dominant HSs would not exhibit this same attrition. We conducted both receptive judegment tasks and oral production tasks in order to test this phenomenon, and found evidence that seems to largely be in favor of our hypothesis. We conclude by commenting on the broader implications of our research on bilingualism and pedagogy, especially as it relates to heritage language maintenance.

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