Eleventh Heritage Language Research Institute

Heritage Languages in Unexpected Places

professional development \ institutes \ 2019 institute

Go back to abstract list

Clitics in heritage languages: Cross-linguistic evidence for the loss of optionality

by Tanya Ivanova-Sullivan (University of New Mexico)

Recent analyses of clitics in heritage languages highlight their robust status in the grammar compared to agreement morphology (Polinsky 2018; Polinsky & Scontras 2019). Studies of clitic acquisition in Heritage Portuguese and Spanish, for example, indicate their stable production in children’s early grammar and gradual attainment of their placement (Flores & Barbosa 2014; Montrul 2004; Pérez-Leroux, Cuza & Thomas 2011; Rinke & Flores, 2014). Drawing on these accounts and on my own investigation of clitics in Heritage Bulgarian, I explore the syntactic and prosodic aspects of clitic placement in child heritage grammars with respect to proclisis-enclisis alternations and adjacency relations. I discuss the mechanisms behind these processes by examining input properties and the possibility of cross-linguistic influence vs. language-internal changes resulting from more general principles of language acquisition under unbalanced bilingualism.

My analysis builds upon recent approaches to clitics as a phenomenon at the syntax-PF interface (Harizanov 2014; Mavrogiorgos 2013; Pescarini 2013) in order to answer questions about the possible challenges of this interface to heritage language acquisition (Polinsky 2018). Specifically, I focus on two cross-linguistic findings documented in studies of heritage clitics:

a. overgeneralization of one clitic position (emergence of enclisis as default);

b. strong adherence to adjacency relations between clitics and their verbal hosts

I argue that the enclisis default in the acquisition of heritage clitics manifests a more universal tendency for reduction of optionality in favor of one option. I discuss alternative explanations of this selection in terms of (1) inherent enclitic properties of the clitics, (2) proclisis triggers that are overtly realized as heads or XP in the CP domain and (3) the nature and number of PF operations.

Click to Download Presentation