The Nature and Deficits in Heritage Language Comprehension and Production

With a view to informing heritage language instruction, this project is investigating the source of difficulties heritage learners encounter when trying to grasp certain grammatical relationships found in the heritage language.

Project Leader: Maria Polinsky (Harvard University)

This project will build on earlier work done on relative clauses, passives, and agreement in Czech, Persian, Armenian, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. Polinsky (2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2009, 2011), for instance, has found that certain relationships in a sentence are difficult for heritage speakers to grasp. The choice of instructional strategies to address these deficits depends on their origin: they could be caused either by differences in syntactic structure between English and the heritage language (a “structural reason”), or by the lack of control over morphological operations such as case and agreement (a “surface reason”). For this project, Polinsky will focus on Chinese, eliciting data parallel to the inventory from earlier projects.

Representative Publications:

Benmamoun, E., Montrul, S., & Polinsky, M. (2010). White Paper: Prolegomena to Heritage Linguistics

Clemens, L., Coon J., Graff P., López N., Morgan A., Mateo P., & Polinsky, M. (2012).  Experimental design for field linguistics, January 9, 2012. Symposium: Psycholinguistic Research on Lessā€Studied Languages. Portland, OR.

Dubinina, I. & Polinsky, M. (2012). Russian in the USA. In M. Moser (ed.) Slavic Languages in Migration. Wien: University of Vienna.

Montrul, S. & Polinsky, M. (2011).  Why not heritage speakers? Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 1 (1).

Plaster, K., Polinsky M., & Harizanov B. (In Press.) Noun Classes Grow on Trees: Noun Classification in the North-East Caucasus. Language and representations (tentative). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Polinsky, M. (2008a). Gender under incomplete acquisition: Heritage speakers’ knowledge of noun categorization. Heritage Language Journal 6/1: 40-71.

Polinsky, M. (2008b). Without aspect. In G. Corbett & M. Noonan (eds.): Case and grammatical relations. 263-282. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Polinsky, M. (2008c). Heritage language narratives. In D. Brinton, O. Kagan & S. Bauckus (eds.): Heritage language education: A new field emerging. 149-164. New York: Routledge.

Polinsky, M. (2009). What breaks in A- and A-bar chains under incomplete acquisition. 22nd Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing. University of California, Davis.

Polinsky, M. (2010). Asymmetries in nominal and verbal morphology. Second Language Research Forum. University of Maryland.

Polinsky, M. (2011). Annotated bibliography of research in heritage languages. Oxford Bibliographies, Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Polinsky, M. (2011). Reanalysis in adult heritage language: A case for attrition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 45

Polinsky, M., Zhang B., & Gallo C. (2010). Eliciting heritage speakers' production, October 3. MIMS. Hamburg, Germany: Hamburg University

Polinsky, M., Zhang B., & Gallo C. (2010). Heritage Chinese: A new view from production, June 28, 2010. Fourth Heritage Language Institute, Manoa, HI: National Heritage Language Resource Center

Viswanath, A. & Polinsky, M. (2012).  A look at Heritage English. Formal Approaches to Heritage Languages. Amherst, MA: UMass Amherst.