Heritage Speakers Outside North America

Fifteenth Heritage Language Research Institute

Language policy, language vitality and discrimination in indigenous minorities in Europe

  • Tanja Kupisch, Ph.D., Universität Konstanz, Germany

Language policy, language vitality and discrimination in indigenous minorities in Europe Indigenous minorities have not been prominent in heritage language research, although they share many similarities with the typically studied migrant minorities (Polinsky, 2022). One crucial difference is, however, that there is no country in which indigenous languages are spoken as a national majority language, which means that their survival heavily depends on policy support. Language policies target language behaviour, sometimes with the aim of revitalising languages that are in danger due to assimilatory policies in the past. However, it is notoriously difficult to assess the effect of such policies. In a survey study with 5000 participants, we investigated language use and competence in the Indigenous Sámi populations of Norway and Sweden, taking the policies in the two countries into account. Based on a comparison of educational, linguistic and budgetary policies as well as data on language use, we show that differences across countries correlate with the vitality of the languages in these two countries and well as in the minorities’ reports of perceived discrimination. Overall, Sámi language use has dropped dramatically over the past three generations. Only a small proportion of Sámi are highly fluent and use a Sámi language with their children; Sámi language knowledge remains negligible in the majority population. However, Sámi language use and proficiency are somewhat higher in Norway, which seems to reflect the more favourable policies adopted there. In both countries, more work is needed to increase speaker numbers, also in the majority population.


Production and prediction of DOM in school-aged heritage speakers of Spanish in the Netherlands and the UK

  • Brechje van Osch, Ph.D., UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

Spanish as a heritage language (HL) has been investigated widely in the context of the US, with English being the majority language. However, it is not clear whether the findings from this research can directly be extrapolated to other contexts and other language combinations. Moreover, the majority of studies have focused on adult heritage speakers (HSs), that is, the outcome of acquisition. Less is know about how the HL develops, especially during the school years.

In this talk, I aim to tackle these gaps in the literature, by investigating Spanish as a HL in the Netherlands and in the UK, focusing on children between the ages of 7 and 15. The structure of interest is differential object marking (DOM). I will show that, while the children are quite comparable to age-matched controls when it comes to elicited production, they are not able to use the marker as a cue to predict the upcoming noun during real time sentence processing. I will also discuss to what extent individual differences between children can be traced back to input quantity and quality.


Examining Voice Onset Time (VOT) in Japanese-English returnee children

  • Neal Snape, Ph.D., Gunma Prefectural Women's University, Tamamura, Japan

Montrul (2016) has argued that if returnees were born in an English-speaking country and then return to Japan, they are likely to lose English as Japanese becomes the dominant language. This is where the term ‘heritage language reversal’ is used instead of L2 attrition, as Montrul seems to refer to all returnees as ‘heritage language reversal’ cases. The Japanese-English returnee children featured in the current study are not such cases.

Our longitudinal study examines whether the decline in exposure to L2 input experienced by three Japanese-English returnee children produces changes in voice onset time (VOT). The returnees were born in Japan to Japanese-speaking parents. The researchers met with the returnees six times over the span of three years. Each meeting required the returnees to complete various tasks, including ‘The Frog Story’ (Mayer, 1979) and a picture description task (Goad & White, 2008) to elicit spoken production. Each time, the returnees were recorded using a video camera and an audio recorder. The recordings of each session were subsequently analyzed in Praat for the production of words beginning with voiceless stop consonants /p/, /t/ and /k/. Words were spliced from the original full-length recordings so that a more detailed analysis of individual segments could be conducted. The results of the analyses for all recordings (across three years) show that the returnees’ L2 English VOT values are no different in length and that there is no evidence of change in their VOT values for /p/, /t/ and /k/ in English, despite the limited exposure they get to English back in Japan.


Recent developments in heritage sound systems outside of North America

  • Rajiv Rao, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

This presentation begins by examining why the study of heritage sound systems has lagged behind that of other areas of linguistic inquiry. Then, growth in the study of heritage sounds over the past two decades is summarized, while pointing out what we have learned and highlighting remaining gaps in the field. Next, a recent contribution filling some of the previously mentioned gaps, the phonetics and phonology of heritage languages is discussed with special emphasis on chapters based on contexts outside of North America. The presentation concludes by going through a series of remaining questions for the field to address from a variety of angles (e.g., linguistic, pedagogical, etc.).

published icon

Published: Monday, March 25, 2024