About the lab
The Bilingualism and Language Contact Lab at UIC focuses on research on issues related to dual activation of two languages, cross-linguistic influence at the interface of syntax and other language components among children and adults who are speakers of a minoritized language and a socially dominant language. Of special interest are heritage speakers of minoritized languages such as Spanish as a heritage language in the US and languages of indigenous peoples in the Americas.
Featured research (8)
We investigate whether dominance, language experience, and increased interaction have an effect on the development of heritage bilingual children’s knowledge of the discourse-pragmatic constraints guiding null and overt subjects. A group of child heritage bilinguals ( n = 18, mean age = 5;5) and comparison groups of adults: Mexican Spanish monolinguals ( n = 15), heritage bilinguals in the United States ( n = 16), and English monolinguals in the United States ( n = 16) completed a language background questionnaire, a portion of the Bilingual English-Spanish Assessment ( BESA ) in English and Spanish, a forced-choice task ( FCT ) in Spanish, and two acceptability judgment tasks ( AJT s): one in English and one in Spanish. Results showed that heritage children and adults pattern similarly and differently from adult monolinguals. Increased interaction at home has a positive effect on accuracy in the pragmatic conditions that license null subjects in Spanish without affecting overt subject patterns in English, the dominant language.
Gender agreement between determiners and nouns, and gender agreement between third-person clitics and their referents, are notoriously difficult to acquire by bilingual speakers who lack them in their first language, or in one of their first languages. We present a study that explores the differences between gender agreement between a determiner and a noun and gender agreement between clitics and antecedents or doubled DPs among Shipibo-Spanish speakers. The oral production data that were elicited from 17 adult Shipibo-Spanish bilinguals by using a picture-based narration task show a notable difference in the agreement patterns between nouns and determiners, and between clitics and their antecedents/doubled DPs. Similar patterns are found among five Spanish-Shipibo bilinguals who were living in the same contact situation. While the participants consistently marked strong gender agreement within the DPs, a lack of gender specification was found in the agreement between clitics and antecedents or doubled DPs in the clitic-doubling and dislocated structures. These results are not unexpected as they mirror the results from previous work, where the clitic gender does not systematically match the antecedent gender, especially with feminine antecedents or doubled DPs. Furthermore, this study confirms previous evidence that the gender-specific clitics, lo/la, have been replaced by the invariable clitic, le, in contexts where agreement with a doubled DP or an antecedent is expected. In contrast, there is evidence of agreement between determiners and nouns in this group of bilinguals. These facts allow us to conclude that, although gender is present in Shipibo-Spanish bilingual speakers’ grammar, it is largely absent and is not operative in Shipibo-Spanish speakers’ clitic agreement in oral production.
The mapping of information structure onto morphology or intonation varies greatly crosslinguistically. Agglutinative languages, like Inuktitut or Quechua, have a rich morphological layer onto which discourse-level features are mapped but a limited use of intonation. Instead, English or Spanish lack grammaticalized morphemes that convey discourse-level information but use intonation to a relatively large extent. We propose that the difference found in these two pairs of languages follows from a division of labor across language modules, such that two extreme values of the continuum of possible interactions across modules are available as well as combinations of morphological and intonational markers. At one extreme, in languages such as Inuktitut and Quechua, a rich set of morphemes with scope over constituents convey sentence-level and discourse-level distinctions, making the alignment of intonational patterns and information structure apparently redundant. At the other extreme, as in English and to some extent Spanish, a series of consistent alignments of PF and syntactic structure are required to distinguish sentence types and to determine the information value of a constituent. This results in a complementary distribution of morphology and intonation in these languages. In contact situations, overlap between patterns of module interaction are attested. Evidence from Quechua–Spanish and Inuktitut–English bilinguals supports a bidirectionality of crosslinguistic influence; intonational patterns emerge in non-intonational languages to distinguish sentence types, whereas morphemes or discourse particles emerge in intonational languages to mark discourse-level features.
In this chapter we explore the expression of Differential Object Marking (DOM) in monolingual and bilingual Spanish in contact with typologically different languages. We focus on how DOM patterns are expressed in bilingual and monolingual clitic doubling and dislocated structures by investigating the effect of typological differences in case marking and the effects of definiteness, animacy and thematic role. Our findings show that while definiteness, animacy and thematic structure are relevant factors in the production of DOM across bilingual groups, there are also differences in DOM frequency related to typological distinctions in the L1 of the bilingual groups. Finally, our findings also show variability in the monolingual data of three individuals raised in a contact situation as well as the raise of topicality as a possible factor that contributes to DOM in the L2 varieties under study.
The present study investigates variability in heritage speakers’ (HSs) knowledge of inalienable possession in Spanish (e.g., 'me rompí el brazo': ‘I broke my arm’). By testing HSs’ productive and receptive knowledge of this property, the study fills an important gap in the literature and, furthermore, explores whether differences in performance across productive and receptive modalities reflect grammatical innovation at the level of underlying representation. Thirty HSs (16 advanced proficiency, 14 intermediate proficiency) and 15 Spanish-dominant controls (SDCs) completed two experimental tasks, each testing both inalienable and alienable object contexts. Results from the Elicited Production Task show that the HSs exhibit significant variability. Unlike the SDCs, who almost categorically produce clitics to communicate the inalienability of objects, the two HS groups rely more heavily on possessive determiners, alternating frequently between the “target” form (Clitic + DefDet: 'me rompí el brazo') and three different “innovative” variants (e.g., NoClitic + PossDet: 'rompí mi brazo'). Results from the Acceptability Judgment Task complicate this finding by revealing that the HSs, despite their productive variability, make all of the same within-group distinctions as the SDCs, suggesting that they retain systematic receptive knowledge of inalienable possession. To explain these seemingly contradictory patterns, as well as the strong effect of Spanish proficiency on HSs’ performance across tasks, we suggest that HSs’ variability is consistent with English to Spanish influence at the level of bilingual alignments, transient storage mechanisms proposed by Sánchez (2019) to account for gradient and variable performance in multiple bilingual contexts.
- Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies
About Liliana Elizabeth Sanchez
- Liliana Elizabeth Sanchez currently works at the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at University of Illinois, Chicago. Liliana does research in Syntax and Interlinguistics (Bilingualism, Second Language Acquisition, and Language Contact). Her current projects are: a) 'Bilingualism in the Southern Andean and Central Amazonian regions of Peru' b) 'Quechua Word Order ', c) 'Quechua documentation' c) Null Subjects in Child Acquisition. d) Dynamic Access in Bilinguals