Incomplete Access: What comprehension/production-asymmetries tell us about heritage grammars

Date: 
Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 4:00pm
Location: 
room in Van Hise Hall TBA
Speaker and Affiliation: 
Michael Putnam, Penn State University

We argue that some of the major features that have been identified as properties of heritage language acquisition (overextension of defective verbal inflection such as the use of indicative for subjunctive, lack of morphological markers such as differential object marking, or default gender forms) can be better characterized as cases of 'incomplete access'. Under this view, certain lexical items and grammatical configurational mappings become stronger and easier to access over time, eventually blocking "richer" representations. Thus, grammatical knowledge is not considered lost, but rather more difficult to access due to the pressures of speech in real-time. ‘Incomplete access' can progressively lead to restructuring processes, where some degree of 'divergence' at the representational level is possible (Scontras et al. 2015). We provide empirical support for this hypothesis presenting data from Perez-Cortes’s (2016) study of heritage speakers (HS) acquisition of obligatory and variable mood selection. In this work, Perez-Cortes interviewed a total of 69 Spanish HS with different levels of proficiency in the heritage language using four experimental tasks:a truth-value judgment, two production tasks (written and oral), and an acceptability judgment task. Results showed that early Spanish-English bilinguals’ mastery of mood selection was highly dependent on the interplay between their level of proficiency, age of onset of bilingualism and frequency of Spanish use. In conclusion, we address methodological and conceptual impact our proposal may have on future work in heritage linguistics.


Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, the Department of Linguistics, the Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition and the Language Institute.