Heritage Speakers as Part of the Native Language Continuum

Abstract and Figures

We argue for a perspective on bilingual heritage speakers as native speakers of both their languages and present results from a large-scale, cross-linguistic study that took such a perspective and approached bilinguals and monolinguals on equal grounds. We targeted comparable language use in bilingual and monolingual speakers, crucially covering broader repertoires than just formal language. A main database was the open-access RUEG corpus, which covers comparable informal vs. formal and spoken vs. written productions by adolescent and adult bilinguals with heritage-Greek, -Russian, and -Turkish in Germany and the United States and with heritage-German in the United States, and matching data from monolinguals in Germany, the United States, Greece, Russia, and Turkey. Our main results lie in three areas. (1) We found non-canonical patterns not only in bilingual, but also in monolingual speakers, including patterns that have so far been considered absent from native grammars, in domains of morphology, syntax, intonation, and pragmatics. (2) We found a degree of lexical and morphosyntactic inter-speaker variability in monolinguals that was sometimes higher than that of bilinguals, further challenging the model of the streamlined native speaker. (3) In majority language use, non-canonical patterns were dominant in spoken and/or informal registers, and this was true for monolinguals and bilinguals. In some cases, bilingual speakers were leading quantitatively. In heritage settings where the language was not part of formal schooling, we found tendencies of register leveling, presumably due to the fact that speakers had limited access to formal registers of the heritage language. Our findings thus indicate possible quantitative differences and different register distributions rather than distinct grammatical patterns in bilingual and monolingual speakers. This supports the integration of heritage speakers into the native-speaker continuum. Approaching heritage speakers from this perspective helps us to better understand the empirical data and can shed light on language variation and change in native grammars. Furthermore, our findings for monolinguals lead us to reconsider the state-of-the art on majority languages, given recurring evidence for non-canonical patterns that deviate from what has been assumed in the literature so far, and might have been attributed to bilingualism had we not included informal and spoken registers in monolinguals and bilinguals alike.
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fpsyg-12-717973 February 9, 2022 Time: 16:0 # 1
published: 09 February 2022
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.717973
Edited by:
Antonella Sorace,
University of Edinburgh,
United Kingdom
Reviewed by:
Sarah Schimke,
Technical University Dortmund,
Archna Bhatia,
Florida Institute for Human
and Machine Cognition, United States
Heike Wiese
These authors have contributed
equally to this work
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Language Sciences,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 31 May 2021
Accepted: 25 November 2021
Published: 09 February 2022
Wiese H, Alexiadou A, Allen S,
Bunk O, Gagarina N, Iefremenko K,
Martynova M, Pashkova T, Rizou V,
Schroeder C, Shadrova A,
Szucsich L, Tracy R, Tsehaye W,
Zerbian S and Zuban Y (2022)
Heritage Speakers as Part of the
Native Language Continuum.
Front. Psychol. 12:717973.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.717973
Heritage Speakers as Part of the
Native Language Continuum
Heike Wiese1*, Artemis Alexiadou2,4, Shanley Allen5, Oliver Bunk1, Natalia Gagarina1,4,
Kateryna Iefremenko6, Maria Martynova3, Tatiana Pashkova5, Vicky Rizou2,
Christoph Schroeder6, Anna Shadrova1, Luka Szucsich3, Rosemarie Tracy7,
Wintai Tsehaye7, Sabine Zerbian8and Yulia Zuban8
1Department of German Language and Linguistics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 2Department of English
and American Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 3Department of Slavic and Hungarian Studies,
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 4Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin, Germany,
5Center for Cognitive Science, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany, 6Department of German,
Universität Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany, 7Department of English, Universität Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany,
8Department of Linguistics, Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
We argue for a perspective on bilingual heritage speakers as native speakers of both
their languages and present results from a large-scale, cross-linguistic study that took
such a perspective and approached bilinguals and monolinguals on equal grounds.
We targeted comparable language use in bilingual and monolingual speakers, crucially
covering broader repertoires than just formal language. A main database was the open-
access RUEG corpus, which covers comparable informal vs. formal and spoken vs.
written productions by adolescent and adult bilinguals with heritage-Greek, -Russian,
and -Turkish in Germany and the United States and with heritage-German in the
United States, and matching data from monolinguals in Germany, the United States,
Greece, Russia, and Turkey. Our main results lie in three areas. (1) We found non-
canonical patterns not only in bilingual, but also in monolingual speakers, including
patterns that have so far been considered absent from native grammars, in domains
of morphology, syntax, intonation, and pragmatics. (2) We found a degree of lexical
and morphosyntactic inter-speaker variability in monolinguals that was sometimes
higher than that of bilinguals, further challenging the model of the streamlined native
speaker. (3) In majority language use, non-canonical patterns were dominant in spoken
and/or informal registers, and this was true for monolinguals and bilinguals. In some
cases, bilingual speakers were leading quantitatively. In heritage settings where the
language was not part of formal schooling, we found tendencies of register leveling,
presumably due to the fact that speakers had limited access to formal registers of
the heritage language. Our findings thus indicate possible quantitative differences and
different register distributions rather than distinct grammatical patterns in bilingual and
monolingual speakers. This supports the integration of heritage speakers into the native-
speaker continuum. Approaching heritage speakers from this perspective helps us to
better understand the empirical data and can shed light on language variation and
change in native grammars. Furthermore, our findings for monolinguals lead us to
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
reconsider the state-of-the art on majority languages, given recurring evidence for non-
canonical patterns that deviate from what has been assumed in the literature so far, and
might have been attributed to bilingualism had we not included informal and spoken
registers in monolinguals and bilinguals alike.
Keywords: heritage speakers, registers, participles, word order, bare NPs, boundary tone, referent introduction,
relative clause formation
Heritage speakers are speakers who grow up in a bi- or
multilingual home with a minority language in addition to the
majority language(s) dominant in the larger society (see, e.g.,
Montrul and Polinsky, 2011). Accordingly, these are speakers
who acquire their heritage language early and naturally in a home
environment as a first language, but who also acquire another
language early on, which is more dominant in the larger society
and will often be the only language supported in the formal
context of schooling. This constitutes an interesting population
that poses a challenge for the question of what counts as a “native
speaker,” which has traditionally been conceptualized mostly
from a monolingual standpoint [cf. criticism in Ortega (2009)
and Cook (2016)]. Investigating heritage speakers can help us
unravel underlying assumptions of “nativeness,” and contribute
to our understanding of native grammars, language variation and
change (e.g., Polinsky, 2015, 2018;Lowe, 2020).
The concept of “native speaker” as used in linguistic research
can involve at least three different types of assumptions. First,
a basic assumption is the requirement that a native speaker
is “native” in the sense of being born into the language, that
is, acquiring it from birth. In this sense, heritage speakers are
uncontroversially native speakers of their heritage language, since
they acquire it as a first language in a home environment.
However, this is not the only requirement for native speakers used
in the literature.
A second – implicit or explicit – requirement, often found in
heritage language research, is that in order to be fully recognized
as such, a native speaker has to master a repertoire that also
involves standard or formal registers of their heritage language.
For instance, Montrul and Polinsky (2019), while explicitly
acknowledging that heritage speakers “are native speakers of
their heritage language” (p. 420), require a range of registers,
including formal writing, for a “proficient native speaker” (p. 426;
cf. also Montrul, 2008:109). Since such registers are learned
primarily in the context of formal education, heritage speakers
often only acquire them for the majority language, which would
then exclude them from the group of proficient native speakers of
their heritage language.
It is not clear, though, why specific registers should be
a necessary part of native-language proficiency, since the
development of register distinctions is linked to social and
communicative requirements that vary across social groups. This
is independent of bi- or monolingualism, and in the case of
monolinguals, it usually does not affect our view of speakers
as native. For instance, we would not assume that a language
without formal writing does not have any proficient native
speakers, for instance in historic stages before the invention of
writing, or for minority languages without a written code, and
we would not claim that preschool children and people who are
illiterate are not native speakers of their language.
Furthermore, register knowledge may differ substantially
across (monolingual) speaker groups and registers develop
throughout the lifespan, so it is not clear why some registers, but
not others, would be required for native-speaker proficiency. For
instance, university students will typically acquire new spoken
and written registers characteristic for academia, but this will not
be regarded as a requirement for being a proficient native speaker,
and it is uncontroversial that monolinguals without university
experience are proficient native speakers of their languages.
This suggests that we ought to keep nativeness separate from
register distinctions, so that speakers who use, for instance,
only informal and/or spoken registers of their language, will
also be considered proficient native speakers. This underlines
the importance to tap into linguistic competences supporting
language use in different real-life settings, including those outside
standard language (cf. also Bayram et al., 2019). Avoiding a
standard language bias in our research is also important given
that formal standard varieties are exceptional: they are subject
to codified norms that hamper normal patterns of language
variation and change, and thus should be considered peripheral
rather than central instances of native language grammars.
A third kind of assumption is related to attitudinal and
language-ideological patterns constructing a native speaker as
someone who has grown up monolingually. Heritage speakers
are primarily investigated in societies with a strong monolingual
habitus (Gogolin, 1994, 2002), in particular countries based
on European nation state building (including those that
developed out of former European settler colonies, e.g., the
United States). Against this background, a “native speaker”
is often taken to be monolingual [cf. criticism in Brutt-
Griffler and Samimy (2001),Bonfiglio (2010),Cook (2016),
and Ortega (2016)]. This conceptualizes monolinguals as the
primary owners of a language, and as the gold standard for
linguistic competence and attainment. Such a conceptualization
was already implicit in earlier structuralist idealizations, such
as the Chomskian “ideal speaker-listener” (Chomsky, 1965)
or Saussure’s focus on one-to-one correlations of language
and place as the “forme idéale” (de Saussure, 1916: Part
4, Ch. 2, §1). In current studies, it is implied in the
use of monolinguals as a control group to test “native-
like” behavior or “native competence” in heritage speakers,
or to test whether some areas “develop at native levels” in
heritage grammars.
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However, such an idealization of the monolingual speaker as
the primary bearer of a native language is not reasonable, and it is
not even feasible. It is not reasonable given that multilingualism
is the normal condition for human language, and, as has been
amply stated (Grosjean, 1982, 2010;Romaine, 1989;Myers-
Scotton, 2006, and others), most speakers in today’s world are
multilingual. A focus on monolinguals as native speakers in
linguistics makes as little sense as the focus on males that has
lately been criticized in medical research (Criado-Perez, 2019;
McGregor, 2020). Medical research has, for a long time, focused
only on males because studies did not want their data to be
affected by hormonal changes thought to be characteristic for
female bodies – but hormonal changes are part of the human
condition, and if we want to know something about humans, we
have to include females. In the same vein, if we want to know
something about language, we have to include multilinguals,
because being linguistically multi-competent is part of the human
condition when it comes to language (e.g., Cook, 2016).
A restriction to monolinguals is not even feasible for empirical
research, because it is not clear who would qualify as a “true
monolingual.” Language is always variable, speakers’ repertoires
always involve a range of options which could be captured
as different grammars (e.g., Tracy, 2002;Roeper, 2003), and
the interaction of linguistic resources within repertoires is not
categorically different for languages versus dialects, registers, or
styles (cf. Li Wei, 2016). This suggests that there is no clear-
cut distinction between bilingual speakers who use different
languages and “monolinguals” whose repertoire will always
include at least different registers. Furthermore, cross-linguistic
effects on the L1 have even been attested for monolingual
speakers who learn a second language in an instructed, non-
immersion setting (Schmid and de Leeuw, 2019). Hence, if we
restrict native-speaker status to monolinguals in a strict sense,
then most of the worlds’ population would not count as native
speakers – including most linguists today, given that most of us
are fluent L2 English speakers, and thus could no longer count as
native speakers of our L1.
This calls for a perspective that integrates heritage speakers
into the native language continuum. Heritage language research
as a field has shown that language is flexible and open to change
over the lifespan. We believe that the time is ripe to take a
further step and to take seriously the fact that heritage speakers
are native speakers of both their languages, as emphasized in
recent discussions of heritage speakers and bilingualism1. In
what follows, we show what this means in terms of a research
programme that does not take monolingual standard norms as
a yardstick to identify what is missing or incorrect in heritage
speakers’ language use. On the basis of findings from cross-
linguistic research, we show what is to be gained by overcoming
a deficit-oriented view of heritage speakers. To this end, we
explore the dynamics, rather than the vulnerability, of different
linguistic domains and investigate development, variation, and
innovation, rather than incomplete acquisition, attrition and loss.
1E.g., Rothman and Treffers-Daller (2014); Guijarro-Fuentes and Schmitz (2015),
Schroeder (2016); Kupisch and Rothman (2018),Aalberse et al. (2019); Lohndal
et al. (2019),Embick et al. (2020), and Flores and Rinke (2020).
Crucially, this means (1) that we do not concentrate on standard
language and formal registers alone, but capture speakers’
broader repertoires, including informal and spoken language, and
(2) that we target heritage speakers and monolinguals alike –
not as test group vs. control group, but as two groups of native
speakers that we expect to both show interesting patterns of
language variation.
In what follows, we present results from a large-scale, cross-
linguistic investigation that realized such a research programme
within the context of the Research Unit “Emerging Grammars
in Language-Contact-Situations: A Comparative View” (short
“RUEG2”)3. In our investigation, we approached bilinguals and
monolinguals as two speaker groups to be investigated, rather
than experimental vs. control group. Accordingly, we cast our net
wide and targeted non-canonical patterns in general, that is, all
patterns that would not be expected in standard grammar, and
we did this for monolingual and bilingual groups alike.
This yielded a range of novel findings across languages, not
only for heritage speakers, but also for the monolingual groups.
In the following sections, we discuss evidence showing that
a range of non-canonical phenomena in heritage speakers are
also at work in monolingual speakers, pointing to language-
internal tendencies of variation and change. These findings place
multilinguals at the forefront of linguistic dynamics, and further
support the integration of heritage speakers into the native
language continuum. We have argued above that recognizing
heritage speakers as native speakers is justified on conceptual
and theoretical grounds. In what follows, we show that this
perspective is also a better fit for the empirical data. We found a
range of patterns that would be surprising if we saw monolinguals
as a measure for “nativeness” and bilinguals as the deviant group.
In contrast, these findings make a lot of sense if we see both
groups as part of the native speaker continuum.
The methods we used to elicit data meet the two demands
formulated above: we need to include informal and spoken
language, and we need to target non-canonical patterns and
variation in bilinguals and monolinguals alike. In order to
achieve this, we used the “Language Situations” (“LangSit”) set-
up, which avoids a restriction to formal language and taps into
broader repertoires across speaker groups (cf. Wiese, 2020). In
this set-up, participants are familiarized with a fictional event
(e.g., a car accident) and are asked to imagine themselves
as a witness to this event, and then act out telling different
interlocutors about it in different communicative situations. This
yields naturalistic productions that are comparable across speaker
groups, languages, and settings.
3Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG (FOR 2537). Speaker:
Heike Wiese; further PIs: Artemis Alexiadou, Shanley Allen, Oliver Bunk,
Natalia Gagarina, Mareike Keller, Anke Lüdeling, Judith Purkarthofer, Christoph
Schroeder, Anna Shadrova, Luka Szucsich, Rosemarie Tracy, Sabine Zerbian;
postdoc: Kalliopi Katsika; Ph.Ds: Katerina Iefremenko, Esther Jahns, Martin Klotz,
Thomas Krause, Annika Labrenz, Maria Martynova, Katrin Neuhaus, Tatiana
Pashkova, Vicky Rizou, Wintai Tsehaye, and Yulia Zuban.
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All materials developed for RUEG’s investigation, including
stimuli, elicitor instructions, and a training video for elicitors,
have been stored with the Open Science Foundation for open
access at
For our investigation, we developed a video showing a (minor)
car accident that involved a young woman with a dog, a couple
with a baby in a pram, and two cars. In this video, one sees the
couple approaching a car park, with the man bouncing a ball.
Across a lane, the woman with the dog is unloading groceries
from her car. The two cars are seen approaching the lane, when
suddenly the man loses control of his ball, which bounces in front
of the first car. On the other side, the dog gets excited and runs
into the lane toward the ball, and the woman drops her groceries.
The first car comes to an abrupt halt, causing the second one to
bump into it. The man with the ball helps the woman pick up
her groceries, the two drivers get out of their cars, and one of
them calls the police, which can be seen through a close-up of the
emergency number on his phone.
We developed five versions for five countries (see below):
Germany, Greece, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. In
order to support cross-linguistic comparisons, these versions
only differed with respect to the emergency number, but were
otherwise identical.
Participants or their parents, in the case of adolescents, gave
informed consent. For the elicitation, they saw the video, were
asked to imagine themselves as a witness to the accident,
and then had to play-act telling different interlocutors about
it. We constructed four different communicative situations by
manipulating formality and mode: participants were asked to:
(1) Leave a voice message for a friend, via instant messenger
(2) Write a message to a friend, via instant messenger
(3) Leave a voice message on a police “witness line” (formal-
(4) Write a witness report for the police (formal-written).
For the informal language productions (1 and 2), participants
used the WhatsApp© messenger on a mobile phone provided by
the elicitor, where auto correction, swiping, and suggestions had
been switched off. The formal-spoken message (3) was produced
on the same phone, as a voice mail to the mail box of a (fictional)
contact “Police Department – eyewitness line.” The formal report
(4) was typed in using a simple text editor on a laptop, with
spelling correction switched off.
For the different language productions, the video was shown
several times. Informal versus formal productions were elicited
in two different rooms that were suitably decorated according to
the (in-)formality, and with two different interlocutors who acted
and were dressed informally vs. formally. Short breaks filled with
(in-)formal conversations divided informal and formal parts of
an elicitation session.
At the end of data elicitation, participants were asked to fill
in a sociolinguistic questionnaire on biographical data including
language use and personality traits.
Bilingual speakers were recorded twice, in their heritage
language and in the majority language, with the two sessions
at least three days apart. Monolingual speakers were recorded
once, in the majority language. Order of elicitation was
counterbalanced for the four communicative situations, and, in
the case of bilingual speakers, for the two languages.
Participants were heritage speakers and monolingual speakers.
Heritage speakers were defined as speakers who had grown up
with a family language in addition to the country’s majority
language. In order to participate, they had to use the heritage
language regularly with at least some members of their nuclear
family, and to be able to speak and write in it (although not
necessarily in the standard alphabet). Further conditions were
that they were born in the country of the respective majority
language or had arrived there at an early age4and that they
had lived in that country since, although not necessarily without
interruptions. Monolingual speakers were speakers who used
only one language regularly at home, namely the respective
country’s majority language, although they might have acquired
additional languages, for instance through formal education.
The bilingual group covered heritage speakers of Greek,
Russian, and Turkish in Germany and in the United States, and
of German as a heritage language in the United States. The
monolingual group consisted of speakers of English, German,
Greek, Russian, and Turkish in the United States, Germany,
Greece, Russia, and Turkey, respectively. In all categories,
we covered two age groups: adolescents (14–18 years), and
adults (22–35 years).
Participants had no reported speech disorders and normal or
corrected-to-normal hearing and vision.
Data Processing and Corpus Generation
Elicitations yielded matched elicited, semi-spontaneous data
across registers, contact-linguistic settings, and bilingual and
monolingual speaker groups, in five languages:
German as a majority language in Germany spoken by
monolingual speakers, and by bilingual speakers with
Greek, Russian, or Turkish as heritage languages, and as a
heritage language in the United States spoken by bilingual
speakers with English as a majority language;
English as a majority language in the United States spoken
by monolingual speakers, and by bilingual speakers with
German, Greek, Russian, or Turkish as heritage languages;
Greek, Russian, and Turkish as majority languages spoken
by monolingual speakers in Greece, Russia, or Turkey,
respectively, and as heritage languages spoken by bilingual
speakers with English or German as majority languages in
the United States or Germany, respectively.
4In general before the age of 23 months, although in some cases this was extended
(up to 4 years) where otherwise it would not have been possible to recruit enough
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In what follows, we refer to languages spoken as majority
languages, e.g., German in Germany, or Greek in Greece, as
“majority German/Greek” or short “maj-German/- Greek,” etc.,
and to languages spoken as minority languages in a heritage
context, e.g., German or Greek in the United States, as “heritage
German/Greek” or short “h-German/-Greek,” etc. We will use
“HS” as an abbreviation for “heritage speaker.” When we give
examples, we provide the transcriptions for spoken data, and
keep to the original spelling (including possible typos) in the case
of written data.
Codes identifying data from the RUEG corpus provide the
following information, in this order:
Country: DE – Germany; GR – Greece; RU – Russia;
TU – Turkey, and US – USA.
Bi-/monolingual speaker: bi vs. mo.
Speaker number incl. age group: 1–50 – adults; from 51
onward – adolescents.
Gender: M vs. F (there were no speakers who
identified as non-binary).
Heritage language for bilingual speakers or only family
language for monolinguals: D – German; E – English;
G – Greek; R – Russian; and T – Turkish.
Communicative situation: f – formal/i – informal and
s – spoken/w – written.
Language of production: D, E, G, R, and T.
For instance, “DEbi51MT_isD” identifies data in Germany
(DE) from a bilingual (bi) adolescent (51) male (M) speaker with
Turkish (T) as a h-language in an informal (i) spoken (s) setting,
communicating in German (D).
All corpus data has been anonymized and integrated into a
unified corpus, the RUEG corpus (Wiese et al., 2019). The RUEG
corpus is a multimodal and multi-layer corpus, which in its
current version (0.4.0) contains approximately 520,100 tokens5
(appr. 146,000 for English, 157,000 for German, 66,000 for Greek,
88,000 for Russian, and 63,000 for Turkish), based on data from
716 speakers, of whom 393 are bilingual and 323 monolingual.
Table 1 gives the details for the different data sets6.
At the time of writing, the corpus continues to grow,
with more data sets and improved annotations added. Corpus
data includes language productions in all four communicative
situations, with additional transcriptions for spoken data
(conditions 1 and 3), and the biographical data from the speaker
questionnaires. Language productions are annotated for syntactic
spans, lemmata, language, and parts of speech in a universal and a
language-specific set of categories. The corpus can be used via the
ANNIS corpus search and visualization tool (Krause, 2019). The
complete corpus, including its source data and all preliminary
versions, is freely available in an open repository (doi: 10.5281/
5We define “token” as the minimal annotated unit in our corpus: a string of
characters between two spaces in written text, or in the written transcription of
spoken text. Thus, a token is typically a word (e.g., “dog”) or an emoji or emoticon
(e.g.,:-/). Punctuation marks and filled pauses (e.g., “um”) are not included as
6Note that the “bilingual” rows represent the same speakers on two lines – e.g.,
maj-German (44) and h-Greek (47) are the same speakers.
TABLE 1 | RUEG corpus data.
Country Bi-/monolingual Languages # speakers # tokens
DE Bilingual maj-German 44 21,339
h-Greek 47 19,783
Bilingual maj-German 56 34,503
h-Russian 58 32,882
Bilingual maj-German 65 35,881
h-Turkish 65 23,722
Monolingual maj-German 64 50,706
United States Bilingual maj-English 34 16,765
h-German 34 14,888
Bilingual maj-English 64 30,913
h-Greek 64 18,032
Bilingual maj-English 65 36,021
h-Russian 66 29,214
Bilingual maj-English 59 32,905
h-Turkish 56 18,502
Monolingual maj-English 64 29,238
GR Monolingual maj-Greek 64 27,931
RU Monolingual maj-Russian 67 25,930
TU Monolingual maj-Turkish 64 20,947
Our analyses yield three main findings: (1) cross-linguistically,
we find non-canonical patterns not only in heritage speakers,
but also in monolinguals, including patterns that, according to
the literature, would not be expected for monolinguals; (2) we
find extensive variation not only in heritage speakers, but also in
monolinguals; (3) non-canonical patterns interact with register,
underlining the importance of taking into account both formal
and informal settings and, crucially, doing so for multilinguals
and monolinguals alike.
Non-canonical Patterns: Not Just in
Heritage Speakers, but Also in
In order to demonstrate what can be gained by approaching
heritage speakers as native speakers of both their languages,
we present non-canonical patterns that we observed in both
heritage speakers and monolinguals. These are patterns that
have so far been considered absent from native grammars and
which might have been attributed to bilingualism had we taken
a less inclusive approach. We cover domains of morphology
and syntax, intonation, and pragmatics. In what follows, we
present results from different languages, combining, in each case,
qualitative and quantitative analyses. Qualitative analyses capture
the relevant patterns and their distribution across bilingual
and monolingual speaker groups. Quantitative analyses compare
frequencies between different groups. In domains where corpus
frequencies are high enough, this is supported by statistical
tests7. For lower-frequency phenomena, we provide comparative
7In cases where we were interested in the impact of multiple mixed effects and/or
inter-individual variation, linear mixed models were applied. In other cases, where
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
figures for the different groups through relative (rather than
absolute) numbers for non-canonical cases as a proportion of
all relevant cases.
Morphology and Syntax
In the domain of morphology and syntax, examples come from
the formation and use of participles in Russian, word order in
German, and bare NPs in German.
Non-canonical Participles in Russian
Participles in Russian are challenging in their morphology and
syntax, and they are acquired later by monolinguals (Cejtlin,
2009;Tribushinina et al., 2013), which makes them an ideal
domain to look for non-canonical forms. Results of our corpus
study show that morphologically non-canonical participles can
be found across all speaker groups, including monolinguals:
(1) v00ezžašˇ
caja belaja mašina beloe avto (-) a: white car white car
(canonical: v00ezžajušˇ
“A white car is driving in, the white car (-) a: slowed down.”
(2) voditeli avtomobilej, kak pervogo, tak i sledovšego
drivers like first so also following
we simply wanted to look at frequency differences across groups, we used the
non-parametric Wilcoxon rank sum test for non-normally distributed data and
parametric ANOVAs for normally distributed data.
za nim, rezko pritormozili
after him abruptly slowed.down
(canonical: sledovavšego)
“The drivers of the cars, both the first one and the one that
followed it, abruptly slowed down”
A qualitative analysis reveals interesting dynamics in the
morphological formation of participles. With suffixes, there is a
widespread truncation of material, which can be seen both in
(1), produced by a HS, and (2), produced by a monolingual. In
(1), the expected suffix -jušˇ
c- for the formation of active present
participles of open stems ending with a j-addition (Bogdanov
et al., 2009) is truncated to -šˇ
c-. In (2), the base for the formation
of the active past participle with the suffix --, consisting of
the stem and a thematic suffix sled-ova-“follow,” is truncated
to sled-o-. Such a pattern can be interpreted as a reduction
of morphological complexity pointing at a tendency for stem
unification across paradigms (Gagarina, 2002:160).
In order to check whether the frequencies of participles
differ significantly across groups, we ran a one-tailed unpaired
Wilcoxon rank sum test. Results show that HSs produced more
non-canonical forms than monolinguals (M= 0.96, SE = 0.48):
W= 36,480, p= 0.023 for HSs in the United States (M= 4.64,
SE = 1.29), and W= 31,997, p= 0.032 for HSs in Germany
(M= 4.11, SE = 1.28). Overall, HSs produced fewer participles,
both canonical and non-canonical ones, than monolinguals
(M= 0.69, SE = 0.09): W= 28,455, p<0.001 for HSs in the
United States (M= 0.15, SE = 0.04), and W= 26,118, p<0.001
for HSs in Germany (M= 0.22, SE = 0.04), see Figure 1 for
FIGURE 1 | Relative frequency of participles per tokens (%) across different groups.
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TABLE 2 | Frequency of tokens and participles across different groups.
Country Tokens:
(% of all
(% of all
DE 32,882 57 (0.17%) 14 (0.04%)
US 29,214 40 (0.13%) 14 (0.05%)
RU 25,930 151 (0.58%) 6 (0.02%)
the relative frequencies and Table 2 for absolute frequencies of
tokens and participles across the groups. Both findings might be
explained by the abovementioned status of participles, and by the
fact that they are generally rare in HSs’ oral input, since they are
associated with formal registers (Zemskaja, 1973;Golub, 2001).
Non-canonical participle formation is also well documented
for monolingual child acquisition (Cejtlin, 2009). Interestingly,
such forms often follow the same patterns as those we find in
our data:
(3) Peˇ
cen’e uže s00eto. (Cejtlin, 2009:169)
cookies already eaten
(canonical: s00edeno)
“The cookies are already eaten”
Similar to (1) and (2), example (3) is a case of morphological
truncation of a stem s00ed- “eat”- to s00e-, which then forms the
base for participle formation with the suffix -t- rather than with
canonical -en(n)-. The fact that we observed such patterns also in
monolingual and bilingual (HS) adult speakers, suggests ongoing
internal dynamics in this linguistic domain in Russian. That HSs
use such a pattern with a higher frequency hence means that they
can shed a spotlight on ongoing tendencies in native grammars.
Non-canonical Word Order in German
For German, we report relevant findings from two domains: word
order and bare NPs. German has traditionally been described as
an SOV language with verb-second (V2) word order requiring
the finite verb in main declaratives to appear in second position,
after exactly one constituent in the domain in front of it, the
“forefield.” This position of the finite verb constitutes one of
two “sentence brackets” characteristic for the lay-out of German
sentences. The other position is located at the right clausal
periphery. In main declaratives, it contains non-finite verbs and
separable verb particles. Together, the left and the right bracket
delimit the “middle field,” the canonical domain for complements
and adjuncts. Typically, embedded clauses are extraposed, i.e.,
occur beyond the right sentential bracket in the “post-field.”
The V2 requirement is usually regarded as a prime example
of a rigid constraint in the grammar of German native speakers.
Therefore, deviations from V2 in the maj-German of Turkish
HSs, where an adverbial occurs in front of the subject at the
left periphery, were taken to fall outside native German. For
Auer (2013:37f), for instance, they indicated the reorganization
of German V2 to SVO, which would “intervene deeply in the
structures of autochthonous German in its standard and non-
standard forms” and, together with other non-canonical patterns,
such as bare NPs, “would have the potential to constitute a
new variety that would differ substantially from autochthonous
German” (German originals, our translation).
This view has been challenged by accounts integrating this
non-canonical pattern into the syntactic lay-out of German
sentences (Wiese, 2013;te Velde, 2017;Walkden, 2017;Wiese
and Müller, 2018). Findings suggest a systematic verb-third (V3)
option that, unlike SVO, preserves the characteristic German
sentence brackets. From the point of view of information
structure, V3 has the advantage over V2 of allowing both a
framesetter or discourse linker [e.g., dann “then,” see (4) and
(5) below] and a topic in the left periphery (Wiese, 2012, 2013;
Walkden, 2017;Wiese et al., 2017;Bunk, 2020).
While V3 in German has mostly been associated with
language-contact situations (e.g., Walkden, 2017), we have shown
that it is also available in monolingual speakers (Wiese and
Rehbein, 2015;Bunk, 2020). The present study confirms this for
maj-German across populations: in the RUEG corpus, we find
V3 not only in bilingual speakers with h-Greek, h-Russian, and
h-Turkish, but also in monolingual speakers, cf. (4) and (5).
(4) und dann er lässt sein ball einfach fallen
and then he lets his ball simply fall
“And then, he just lets his ball fall down.”
(5) dann die polizei is auch (-) richtig schnell
then the police has also really quickly
“And then, the police arrived really quickly.”
Findings point to the same V3 options in monolinguals and
bilinguals, with an adverbial and a subject preceding the finite
verb. As in previous studies, V3 is infrequent, though, with only
48 cases in the bilingual and 11 cases in the monolingual group,
with the bilingual group in the lead quantitatively (cf. also Wiese
and Rehbein, 2015). In order to compare the difference, we
computed normalized frequencies per 100 CUs (communicative
units). In the RUEG corpus, CUs were used as a means to segment
utterances and were defined as an “independent clause with its
modifiers” (following Loban, 1976:9). Accordingly, normalizing
for 100 CUs gives us the numbers for V3 as a percentage of all
independent clauses, and hence a good approximation for the
proportion of non-canonical cases, since V3 is a pattern located
at the clausal level. The quantitative difference between speaker
groups we observed for absolute numbers is confirmed for such
normalized frequencies: we find 0.96 V3 occurrences per 100 CUs
in the bilingual group, compared to 0.41 occurrences per 100 CUs
in the monolingual group.
Interestingly, the higher frequency is primarily due to speakers
with h-Turkish: data from this group makes up 38 of the 48 V3
findings, or 1.88 occurrences per 100 CUs, compared to only 0.42
and 0.27 occurrences per 100 CUs (five cases each) coming from
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
the h-Greek and h-Russian group, respectively. These findings
speak against contact-linguistic transfer, since Turkish, an SOV
language, would support the basic SOV word order of German,
while Russian and Greek both have a tendency to SVO, which
shares a strong surface similarity with V3 as soon as additional
left-peripheral constituents such as adverbials are involved. If
cross-linguistic transfer were a relevant trigger for V3, we would
expect bilingual speakers with h-Greek and h-Russian to be in
the lead, rather than those with h-Turkish. This further supports
a view of German grammar as the locus of this phenomenon.
For h-German speakers in the United States, we observe
an increase in the non-canonical V3 pattern, similar to what
we found for non-canonical participle formation in h-Russian:
h-German speakers produce 3.47 V3 main clauses per 100 CUs
(55 cases in total), with framesetters/linkers like dann,nun in
addition to those probably adopted from English, such as so
([zo]), cf. (6) and (7) (with the latter exhibiting all three linkers).
(6) dann um die ecke sind zwei autos gefahren
then around the corner are two cars driven
“then two cars drove around the corner”
(7) und dann der auto hinter ihm war nicht bereit so
and then the car behind him was not ready so
der hat ihn (-) dreingeschubst
he has him there-in-pushed
und nun es is alles überall hingerollt
and now it is all everywhere rolled
“and then the car behind it wasn’t ready so it pushed into it and
now everything rolled everywhere”
In this case, the influence of English (X)SVO might further
support V3 production, given that English is the majority and
main contact language for h-German here. While we cannot rule
out that some patterns are enhanced by parallels in English, this
only holds partially, though, as shown in (6) and (7), where
the clausal brackets remain canonical (“sind . . . gefahren;” “hat
. . . dreingeschubst”), in contrast to English SVO. Qualitatively,
the h-German data matches, to a large extent, what we find
in monolingual and bilingual speakers of maj-German. The
difference appears to be quantitative and due to an increased
range of constituents involved in V3 clauses, such as non-
subjects in the forefield [e.g., a PP as in (6)] and – trivially –
borrowed linkers [such as so in (7)]. All other cases are
attested in our monolingual data as well, even though with a
lower frequency.
Had we only investigated h-German in contact with maj-
English, we might have claimed that V3 is due to cross-linguistic
transfer. Instead, we can now conclude these patterns are also
available within the monolingual German repertoire but may be
selectively strengthened in HSs by language contact.
Non-canonical Bare NPs in German
For the investigation of non-canonical bare NPs in German,
we used additional data from the DNam corpus of German in
Namibia (Wiese et al., 2017;Zimmer et al., 2020)8, in order to
compare two groups of h-German speakers. Namibian German
represents a rare case of h-German that is still grounded in a vital
speech community that systematically uses German not only in
informal, but also in formal settings. We focus on the LangSit
subcorpus which contains register-differentiated data similar to
that in the RUEG corpus (103 speakers; 51,509 tokens). It covers
informal-spoken and formal-spoken productions (formal: 23,606
tokens, informal: 25,629 tokens), elicited with visual stimuli in the
form of a photo story about a car accident.
Our findings indicate that monolinguals as well as bilinguals
produced non-canonical bare NPs, i.e., those that we would
not expect in standard German. Figures are overall low: non-
canonical cases make up 0.34% of all NPs across maj-German
data by both monolingual and bilingual speakers in Germany (22
and 50 occurrences, respectively), 0.98% (22 cases) in h-German
in the United States, and 1.06% (44 occurrences) in Namibia.
Interestingly, the non-canonical cases differ qualitatively
between the h-German group in the United States and the others.
Non-canonical NPs in Germany (maj-German by mono- and
bilingual speakers) and Namibia (h-German) can be subsumed
under current trends of article decline in German triggered by
hyperdetermination, as described by Leiss (2010): (a) generally
in generic and unique reference and light verb constructions
and in local and directional contexts, and (b) a decline of the
definite article in initial, thematic position, and of the indefinite
article in rhematic position, because these are already inherently
definite or indefinite, respectively. (8) illustrates this for a non-
canonical bare NP with generic reference (and in rhematic
position) from Namibian German, and (9) for one in rhematic
position, produced by a monolingual speaker in Germany:
(8) dann hab ich auch krankenwagen angerufen
then have I also ambulance called
“Then, I also called (an) ambulance.”
(9) ich hab eben verkehrsunfall beobachtet
I have just traffic.accident observed
“I just observed (an) accident.”
The h-German data in the United States differs from this in
that we find a distinctive pattern that accounts for almost half of
the cases (11 occurrences) and does not occur in the other data.
In this pattern, non-canonical bare NPs form the second element
in a coordination, cf. (10):
(10) Die blaue auto hat gehaltet wiel die ball und
the blue car has stopped because the ball and
hund war vorne
dog were in.front
“The blue car stopped because there was the ball and (the) dog in
front of it.”
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Unlike known patterns of determiner sharing (McCawley,
1993;Ackema and Szendrõi, 2002), this is not restricted to
coordination at the VP level, suggesting that an existing
pattern can be further extended in heritage language contexts.
As the contrast to Namibian German shows, this variation
is not related to heritage German per se, but might differ
across speech communities. Hence, heritage languages can
participate in ongoing tendencies as well as further extend native-
grammar options.
For the domain of intonation, our data provides an example
from Russian yes-no questions (YNQs). In the literature, Russian
YNQs are reported to be realized with a bitonal rising nuclear
pitch accent on the verb (L+H or L +H;Rathcke, 2006b;
Meyer and Mleinek, 2006) followed by a low final boundary
tone (FBT; L%) (Igarashi, 2006;Rathcke, 2009), except if the
nuclear pitch accent falls on the final syllable, in which case a
high FBT (H%) is realized (Makarova, 2003;Rathcke, 2006a). The
FBT can thus be considered truncated if no material follows the
pitch accent (Rathcke, 2009, 2013). The intonation patterns of
YNQ differ in Russian and English and are hence interesting to
investigate in bilingual speakers.
In order to study the prosodic realization of YNQs of mono-
and h-Russian speakers, we elicited experimental data in addition
to the corpus data during data collection. This consisted of 10
read-aloud YNQs about details of the car accident. We recorded
20 speakers per group, i.e., (1) bilingual speakers of h-Russian in
the United States, (2) bilingual speakers of h-Russian in Germany,
and (3) monolingual speakers in Russia [see Zuban et al. (2020)
and in prep. for details].
The elicited YNQs differed in the number of syllables
following the nuclear pitch accent (or an additional pitch
accent on the object for SVO questions). Each YNQ was
annotated for the location of the nuclear pitch accent and FBT,
following a combined phonetic and auditory approach: presence
of a pitch accent was detected auditorily, and the FBT was
examined with respect to local F0 trajectories and changes using
Praat. Labeling followed the autosegmental-metrical framework
(Makarova, 2003;Igarashi, 2006;Rathcke, 2006b).
Results of the descriptive analysis showed that h-Russian
speakers in the United States predominantly produced L%
(82% of all cases) while h-Russian speakers in Germany and
monolinguals produced L% less frequently (58% for both
groups).In order to check for a possible impact of multiple
fixed effects on the distribution of high and low boundary
tones, we ran a binomial generalized linear mixed-effects model
with FBT as the dependent variable, and the three speaker
groups, number of syllables following the last pitch accent to
the FBT (0–5), transitivity, nuclear contour as independent
variables, and with speaker and item as random effects (Figure 2;
see “Supplementary Appendix 1” for full model specifications
and summaries). It was found (among other things) that all
speaker groups produced an H% when the last pitch accent
fell on the final syllable, in line with the literature on Russian.
Along the same lines, according to what was reported on
truncation of FBTs in Standard Russian, h-Russian speakers
in the United States chose the L% FBT as soon as there was
at least one syllable following the last pitch accent. However,
h-Russian speakers in Germany and mono-Russian speakers
preferred the L% only when there were more syllables following
the last pitch accent.
Hence it is only h-Russian speakers in the United States
who behave according to what was described in the literature,
while mono- and h-Russian speakers in Germany do not.
Had we investigated only h-Russian in Germany and found
the significantly increased use of H% (i.e., the absence of
categorical truncation), we might have been led to think
FIGURE 2 | Estimated likelihood of H% being chosen over L% based on the productions of the three speaker groups.
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
that this pattern is a specific feature of HSs’ intonation
grammar, possibly due to influence from maj-German, which
has H% in YNQs (Grice et al., 2005). However, comparable
realizations by mono-Russian speakers show that what we see
here is a more general pattern: if we approach both HSs
and monolinguals as native speakers and analyze language use
across speaker groups, we may also find non-canonical patterns
in monolinguals that might otherwise have been attributed
to bilingualism.
In the domain of pragmatics, examples come from data on
the position of new referents in Turkish and on referent
introduction in English.
Non-canonical Placement of New Referents in Turkish
As briefly mentioned in “Morphology and Syntax,” the basic and
pragmatically neutral word order in Turkish is SOV. However,
for specific pragmatic purposes, elements can also be placed in
the post-verbal position. In particular, this is possible for marking
backgrounded information and afterthoughts (Erguvanli, 1984;
Schroeder, 1995;Kornfilt, 1997), for constituents such as
NPs, adverbs, discourse markers, forms of address, and finite
subordinate clauses. What is crucial is that placement of new
information is believed to be impossible here: according to the
literature, the information placed in the post-verbal position
has to be discourse-predictable or recoverable from previous
discourse (Erguvanli, 1984:56).
Approaching HSs as native speakers of their languages,
we investigated these information-structural restrictions for
h-Turkish and mono-Turkish alike. We proceeded by selecting
the 21 most frequently used nominal referents that played a
role in the elicited narratives. We annotated every occurrence
of these, adapting Riester and Baumanns (2017) referent
annotation scheme, and identified information status through
three categories (cf. Schroeder et al., to appear): (1) “new” (first
mention), (2) “given” (referent that was introduced before) (3)
“bridging” [referent that has not explicitly been introduced but
belongs to the “pragmatic set” in the sense of Hawkins (1984)
of a given referent (anchor)]. Afterthoughts, repairs and finite
subordinate clauses were excluded from analysis.
Results of the analysis show that even though most of
the referents placed post-verbally were indeed “given” and
“bridging,” there is a substantial number of new referents used
in the post-verbal position. What is interesting in the context of
the present manuscript, is that new referents in the post-verbal
position occurred not only in the data of HSs [as seen in (11),
but also in monolinguals in Turkey (12)]. In HSs in Germany, the
occurrences of new referents in post-verbal position constitute
32.43% of the overall number of referents in the post-verbal
position (24 new referents out of 74 referents in the post-verbal
position), in monolinguals in Turkey the occurrences of new
referents constitute 22.45% (11 new ones out of 49 referents),
and in HSs in the United States, the new referents in the post-
verbal position make up 21.43% (24 occurrences out of 112).
This outcome contradicts what the literature says about canonical
Turkish, namely that new referents are not possible in the post-
verbal position.
(11) bi: çift vardı çocuk arabasıyla
one couple was child car.with
“There was a couple with a stroller.”
(12) az kalsın bi araba çarpıyodu çocuklu bi kadına
almost one car hit child.with one woman
“A car almost hit a woman with a child.”
Most of the new referents in post-verbal position stand in
a close semantic relationship to the subject of the clause. This
relationship is wider than the “bridging” relation, and it is often
indicated by means of the possessive suffix -(s)Ion the post-verbal
constituent [like in (11)], or by free adjuncts that carry adverbial
case. Less often, a new referent in post-verbal position is a lexical
subject or object [as in (12)].
However, it would be misleading to call those new referents
that are in a close semantic relationship with the subject
“backgrounded information,” since in about half of the cases in
our data, the referent introduced in the post-verbal position is
mentioned again in the subsequent discourse, and is treated as
“given” when mentioned again. We propose to call such referents
“secondary” new referents, in the sense that they are secondary
(and related) to another new referent with a higher relevance to
the discourse at that point.
Thus, we conclude that it is indeed possible to place new
information in post-verbal position in Turkish, and this is not
a feature that is typical only for HSs, since the pattern is also
found in the monolingual data from Turkey. As we will discuss in
more detail in section “Register Leveling in Heritage Languages,
in monolinguals this pattern seems to be associated with informal
registers. Hence, if we compare like with like and systematically
include data from such registers from monolinguals as well,
we can avoid misattributing some non-canonical patterns to
bilingualism that form a more general part of native grammars.
Non-canonical Referent Introduction in English
Unlike Turkish, English marks newness and givenness of
referents through indefinite and definite articles (Hickmann and
Hendriks, 1999). The indefinite article apresupposes that the
referent of the NP is new and the addressee is not familiar with
it. The definite article the implies that the addressee can uniquely
identify the given referent of the NP based on previous discourse,
shared physical environment and/or general world knowledge
(Payne and Huddleston, 2002:368–371).
Previous research has shown that bilingual speakers often
differ in their production of articles from monolingual speakers
of English. For example, child HSs of other languages have been
reported to oversupply the in indefinite contexts and ain definite
contexts in maj-English, regardless of their heritage language
(Zdorenko and Paradis, 2008, 2012). Further, adult L2 English
speakers with article-less L1s tend to overuse aand the in contexts
with mismatching parameters of definiteness and specificity (i.e.,
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
subjective noteworthiness of the referent to the speaker) (Ionin,
2006;Ionin et al., 2008).
Most importantly, many studies on article use compare only
two or more bilingual groups to each other (Lardiere et al.,
2004;Zdorenko and Paradis, 2008, 2012;Ionin and Díez-
Bedmar, 2021). If a monolingual comparison group is added,
monolinguals usually supply articles in strict accordance with
the expectations based on the literature (Hawkins et al., 2006;
Ionin, 2006;Ionin et al., 2008;Sarko, 2009;Snape et al., 2013).
Overall, these studies seem to suggest that variability in article
production is a result of bilingualism.
We tested this assumption by examining article choice in
new and given referents among bilingual and monolingual
English speakers of maj-English – 214 HSs with various
heritage languages and 64 English monolinguals.9Similarly to
the investigation of new postverbal referents in Turkish just
discussed, we selected 19 frequent referents such as man,dog,
car1, and car2, and coded them for their information status as
“new” (the first mention of an entity without any identifying
information) or “given” (all the subsequent mentions) (Riester
and Baumann, 2017). This yielded 4,961 new and 10,881
given referents.
We identified all new and given referents that were part of
unexpected non-canonical structures, that is, “the +new” and
a+given” referents. All other structures in which referents
appeared, including expected canonical structures (“a+new”
and “the +given”), were marked as “other.” Contrary to what
would be expected from the literature, we found non-canonical
patterns not only in bilinguals’ productions [see (13) and (15)],
but also in those of monolinguals [see (14) and (16)], and we
found this for both the “the +new” pattern [(13) and (14)] and
the “a+given” pattern [(15) and (16)]:
(13) Oh my god, I just saw a car get rear-ended, there was this really
cute dog and he ran out in front of it because this guy dropped
his ball and the dog chased it onto the street. And then they
had to pick up the groceries [new]. [USbi50FD_isE]
(14) I’m calling about incident number F16, I was there at the time
it happened. There was a blue car and a white car both coming
down a path, they both made a right. As they made a right,
a man had a ball, and it went into the street into the pathway.
The dog [new] ran after the ball. [USmo07FE_fsE]
(15) There was this couple with a ball on one side and a lady
packing groceries on another. The dude from the couple was
holding a ball [given]. [USbi03MG_iwE]
(16) Then a dog starts barking and he runs in the street. So
this guy is driving down the street and he sees a dog
[given]. [USmo10ME_isE]
Hence, we did not find any qualitative differences between
monolinguals and bilinguals in this domain. In order to check
for a possible impact of bilingualism on quantitative distributions
9See figures for maj-English in Table 1 above. Eight HSs (three with h-German,
two with h-Greek, and three with h-Turkish) were excluded from the analysis due
to technical reasons.
while taking into account inter-individual speaker variation,
we ran two binomial generalized linear mixed effects models,
one for new and one for given referents. The dependent
variable was Determiner (“the +new”/“a+given” vs. “other”)
and the independent variables were Bilingualism (bilingual vs.
monolingual), Setting (formal vs. informal) and Mode (spoken
vs. written) (see “Supplementary Appendix 2” for full model
specifications and summaries).
The results indicate neither a main effect of bilingualism,
nor its interactions with other variables, meaning that we have
no evidence of differences between HSs and monolinguals.
Both groups produced similar numbers of non-canonical
the +new” referents, ranging from 6.6% of all given referents
by heritage speakers and 5.6% by monolinguals in the formal
written situation, to 9.1% by heritage speakers and 11.1% by
monolinguals in the informal spoken situation. The two groups
did not differ in the production of “a+given” referents either:
for this pattern, the percentages of non-canonical referents were
much smaller and ranged from 0.47% of all new referents by
heritage speakers and a complete absence by monolinguals in
the informal written situation, to 0.75% in the informal spoken
situation by heritage speakers and 1.5% by monolinguals. Overall,
our data shows that a pattern that has mostly been attributed
to bilingualism actually manifests itself in the productions
of English monolinguals in the same way as it does in the
speech of bilinguals.
Variation: Not Just in Heritage Speakers,
but Also in Monolinguals
In the literature, HSs and bilingual speakers in general are often
presumed to exhibit higher degrees of variation than “regular”
native speakers. Seton and Schmid (2016:341) even claim that
“[t]he most striking characteristic that sets bilinguals apart from
monolinguals is a larger amount of variability in performance.”
Observations from our data suggest a more complex picture and
point to intricate dynamics between groups and individual effects
and different degrees of dynamicity in linguistic subsystems.
The evidence provided to illustrate this point here comes from
our corpus data on maj-German, spoken by monolingual and
bilingual speakers in Germany (see Table 1 above).
Variation can be measured in different quantities, or in
different qualities, such as a wider range of structures. For
example, a bilingual speaker may use different structures from
a monolingual, and those may be canonical or non-canonical
(some canonical structures may be dispreferred by some speakers
and/or in some registers). In our data, we find that all syntactic
dependencies, such as different types of objects, particles,
modifiers, etc., are used by mono- and bilinguals alike (see
Figure 3). Hence, we do not find qualitative differences here:
bilinguals (as a group) neither avoid certain dependencies used by
monolinguals, nor do they exhibit a wider range of dependencies
than monolinguals10.
10Even though Figure 3 contains some fine-grained prepositional subcategories
(PNA and PND marking accusative/dative complements to prepositions) that go
beyond the underlying dependency grammar (Foth, 2006), and dependency parses
have been manually corrected, it is possible that more diversity on this level
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FIGURE 3 | Dependencies in maj-German (formal-written) RUEG texts, normalized by lexical verbs.
Are there quantitative differences in variability, i.e., differences
in variance, then? The picture here is more mixed. First of all,
both the mono- and the bilingual speakers show large degrees
of quantitative variance for some, but not all structures. This
is in part an effect of the general frequency of a structure: if
a dependency type is overall rare, its frequency of occurrence
will exhibit floor effects. However, it also appears that some
structures, whether rare or more frequent, are subject to more
free choice in the frequency of their realization. This can be due
to simple causes, such as the possibility to name all vs. just some
of the agents or circumstances in the respective narratives, or
recurrence and repetition of previously named entities vs. ellipsis.
At the same time, a more or less frequent realization of elements
may also be indicative of differences in communicative style
(explicitness, emphasis) or formality (assumption of interlocutor
expectations; see also Ahern et al., 2019: 487, 488). This can,
for example, affect the frequency of modifying structures such
as adverbs or relative clauses, which can be used to specify or
comment on another dependency. Explicitness, referring here to
the tendency to explicitly name more aspects of the environment
only becomes visible under consideration of more fine-grained lexicosyntactic
phenomena such as constructions.
or circumstances, may also play a role for different amounts of
PP realizations.
However, the realization of PPs can also be due to interactions
with the lexicon, for example in the case of prepositional
objects required by certain verbs (abbreviated as OBJP –
a full list of abbreviations is provided in “Supplementary
Appendix 3”). Other PPs can be added attributively without
lexical constraints. Differences in the frequency of realization of
nominal complements to prepositions (PND for dative objects
to prepositions, PNA for accusative objects complementing
prepositions) can thus be due to lexical diversity (different
verbs requiring different complements), but might also point
toward case dynamics (identical verbs occurring with different
complement cases). Differences in variance can thus represent
very different types of phenomena.
In our data, we see variable degrees of variance between
structures, but there is barely any evidence for a higher degree
of variability in bilinguals. Only the h-Turkish speakers appear
to show a higher degree of variance in the realization of
(free) prepositional phrases (PP) and dative complements to
prepositional phrases (PND), and the effect is rather small.
Some bilingual groups appear to show a slightly higher variance
in modifying structures (male h-Russian and male h-Greek
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FIGURE 4 | Transformed TTR in maj-German (formal-written) RUEG texts.
for subordinate clauses, marked NEB, male h-Greek and male
h-Turkish for adverbs, ADV). However, some chance results
are to be expected due to the high number of between-
group comparisons.
Overall, there is no clear trend toward higher variability
in bilinguals: mono-German speakers are generally within the
range of variance found for bilingual speakers, and even have a
tendency to be on the upper end of it. In fact, differences between
gender groups are generally higher than between speaker groups
of different language background but the same gender.
This also appears to be the case for lexical richness,
approximated here with a transformed type-token-ratio (TTR,
see Figure 4)11. We find no strong differences in the distribution
of individual speakers in each language group. However, the
female mono-German and female h-Turkish bilinguals show the
highest degrees of variance in TTR. This may be an artifact
of different group sizes (23 female, 10 male) – especially since,
in general, we find higher variance in the male groups. This
becomes particularly obvious in the distribution by subcorpora:
we find much higher TTRs for the male speaker groups
compared to the female ones across language groups. Male and
female speakers use roughly the same amount of lexemes per
speaker, but those lexemes converge less between male than
female speakers. This suggests divergent effects of idiomaticity
or coselectional constraints12 and might be attributed to
communicative style or a higher degree of adjustment to
assumptions of interlocutor expectations.
Overall, we find different degrees of variance in our data,
but no particular effect for monolinguals vs. bilinguals. In fact,
11The TTR is transformed by the formula types/tokens ×4tokens, or T TR ×4th
root of text length (or corpus size, respectively) and serves only to adjust for text-
length dependency. No claims are made to the general usefulness of approximating
lexical richness through TTRs.
12See Shadrova (2020) for a discussion of measuring coselectional constraints in
the monolingual speakers in the RUEG corpus exhibit a degree
of variance that reaches, and sometimes surpasses, that of the
bilingual speakers. We do not find evidence that variability in the
realization of syntactic structures or in lexical richness could be
used as a criterion for the definition of a “real” native speaker that
would favor monolingual over bilingual speakers.
The Role of Registers
Approaching HSs as native speakers of both their languages,
we targeted formal and informal registers in bilinguals and
monolinguals alike. Our findings indicate an important
role of registers for non-canonical patterns, and this can
play out differently in heritage and majority language use.
Below we discuss evidence from English and German as
majority languages (“Noncanonical Phenomena in Informal
or Spoken Registers of Majority Languages”), and German,
Turkish, and Greek as heritage languages (“Register Leveling in
Heritage Languages”).
Non-canonical Phenomena in Informal or Spoken
Registers of Majority Languages
In majority language use, non-canonical patterns are dominantly
found in informal and/or spoken registers, and this holds across
bilingual and monolingual speaker groups.
Association With Spoken Registers for Non-canonical
Patterns in English
In section “Pragmatics” we discussed two non-canonical
patterns involving new and given referents in maj-English,
namely “a+given” and “the +new” referents, which appear
in bilingual and monolingual English speakers alike. Our
further results reveal the influence of spoken vs. written
mode on non-canonical article choice. In the two linear
mixed effects models reported in section “Pragmatics,” we
observed a main effect of mode across speaker groups
and formal/informal settings: the spoken mode showed
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more non-canonical structures than the written mode (for
the +new”: meanformalspoken = 7.68%, meanformalwritten = 6.12%,
meaninformalspoken = 10.1%, meaninformalwritten = 7.3%; for
a+given”: meanformalspoken = 0.69%, meanformalwritten = 0.57%,
meaninformalspoken = 1.11%, meaninformalwritten = 0.23%;
see “Supplementary Appendix 2” for p-values and
model summaries).
The higher variability in article choice in the spoken
mode could be associated with a higher cognitive load of
online (spoken) productions compared to offline (written)
ones. Spontaneous spoken production often exerts performance
pressure since it allows little time for planning and no possibility
for changing what has been said (Pullum and Huddleston,
2002:12). This factor is important in L2 research: for instance,
Ionin et al. (2021) argue for testing article knowledge of L2
speakers in comprehension rather than production in order
to avoid the performance pressure and to evaluate speakers’
implicit sensitivity to (in)definiteness. In our study, performance
pressure in the spoken mode might have led the speakers to
only consider their own perspective (familiarity with the referent)
and, consequently, use the definite article, while ignoring the
addressee’s perspective (unfamiliarity with a new referent), which
would require the indefinite article.
In addition, we might be witnessing a new development in
English: possibly, the definiteness distinction is becoming less
strict in spoken spontaneous productions. So far, it is unclear if
this is a systematic pattern of English internal dynamics (since
over 90% of the uses are still canonical), and it needs to be
confirmed in future research.
Association With Informal Registers for Non-canonical
Patterns in German
In maj-German, non-canonical V3 (as described in “Morphology
and Syntax” above) occurs mainly in the informal productions in
our corpus data: of 59 V3 cases in maj-German altogether, 53, that
is, roughly 90%, are from informal communicative situations,
and this pattern is also evident for normalized frequencies, with
1.24 of 1.37 occurrences per 100 CUs, that is, roughly 91%, from
informal communicative situations.
Within the informal settings, we find V3 across spoken (17)
and written (18) modes. This suggests that unlike non-canonical
article choice in maj-English, V3 in maj-German is primarily
associated with informality, independently of mode.
(17) und dann er lässt sein ball einfach fallen
and then he lets his ball simply fall
“And then, he just lets his ball fall down.”
(18) danach er lässt den ball aus versehen fallen
afterward he lets the ball from accident fall
“Afterward, he accidentally lets the ball fall down.”
Note, though, that we do find a few occurrences of V3 in
formal data, and this also includes one production (formal-
written) from a monolingual speaker:
(19) am helligten tage ein paar mit kinderwagen
at.the bright.light day a couple with stroller
sowie einem fußball ging auf dem fußweg a foot.ball went on the foot.path
“In bright daylight, a couple with a stroller went along the
This, again, integrates bilingual and monolingual speakers
alike into the native speaker group: we find the non-canonical
V3 pattern across groups, in both groups primarily associated
with informal registers, with some exceptions which are also
evident in both groups.
For non-canonical bare NPs in maj-German, we similarly
found a dominance in informal data, and again this held for
bilinguals as well as monolinguals. We also found this pattern in
FIGURE 5 | Relative frequencies of non-canonical bare NPs (percentage of all NPs) in German in informal vs. formal settings by three different speaker groups.
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h-German in Namibia, where it was even more pronounced, cf.
Figure 5,13 suggesting that such register differentiation can also
hold in heritage grammars (but see “Register Leveling in Heritage
Languages” below for h-German in the United States).
Register Leveling in Heritage Languages
Some patterns characteristic for informal registers in
monolinguals can be generalized to formal registers in bilinguals’
heritage language use, leading to register leveling.
Non-canonical Bare NPs and Word Order in h-German in
the United States
One example for this is h-German in the United States
In the United States, speakers do not distinguish between
formal and informal settings in their non-canonical word
order and NP patterns, unlike (monolingual and bilingual)
speakers in Germany.
For h-German V3, we find 1.89 occurrences per 100 CUs
in formal settings and 1.57 in informal settings (30 and 25
occurrences, respectively). Mode, however, plays a role here, as
71% of all V3 clauses appear in the spoken mode, pointing to
a more general phenomenon that we also saw in non-canonical
article choice in maj-English.
H-German speakers in the United States also show a
similar distribution of non-canonical bare NPs in formal and
informal situations, with 0.15 and 0.17% of all NPs (13
and 10 occurrences), respectively. As the data discussed in
“Noncanonical Phenomena in Informal or Spoken Registers
of Majority Languages” shows, this is in contrast not only
to monolingual and bilingual speakers of maj-German in
Germany, but also to h-German speakers in Namibia, where
non-canonical NPs were primarily associated with informal
registers. This can be related to the different communicative
domains for German: in Germany and Namibia, German is
used in informal as well as formal settings, including formal
schooling, whereas in the United States, it is mostly restricted to
informal contexts.
Further evidence for register leveling comes from h-Turkish
in Germany. In section “Pragmatics,” we found non-canonical
placement of new referents in post-verbal position in both HSs
and monolinguals. Our analysis shows that in monolingual
data, all the examples of new referents in the post-verbal
position occur in informal (spoken and written) settings. HSs,
on the other hand, tend to place new referents in the post-
verbal position across all communicative situations. Again, this
can be related to communicative domains for the heritage
language: similarly as for h-German in the United States,
h-Turkish speakers in Germany are mostly exposed to informal
language at home and with their peers and have less access
to formal registers. A phenomenon typical for informal
settings in mono-Turkish then spreads into formal settings in
These findings, then, emphasize that non-canonical
phenomena should not always be attributed to heritage
languages or bilingualism in general, but they can also be a
13Note, though, that the corpus data for h-German in Namibia comes only from
spoken productions (see “Morphology and Syntax” above).
feature of informal settings in monolingual varieties. Thus,
what might been seen as a consequence of language contact or
attrition in a superficial account turns out to be present also
in monolingual language use when different communicative
situations are taken into account.
Non-canonical Restrictive Relative Clauses in maj- and
A further area where we noted register leveling is the distribution
of restrictive relative clauses (RCs) in Greek. RCs in Greek
function as modifiers of nouns, as in other languages, and always
appear in post-nominal position (Chatsiou, 2010). Greek RCs14
come in two types: they are either introduced by the pronoun
o opios, literally “the who,” or by the complementizer pu “that.”
While the pronoun is inflected for gender, case and number and
agrees with the nominal head that it modifies in gender and
number, pu bears no inflection. In the literature on Greek, we find
the claim that pu appears mostly in colloquial speech, while the
pronoun is preferred in formal registers (Holton et al., 1997: 212).
We investigated restrictive RCs for the three groups
represented in our corpus: monolingual speakers of maj-Greek
in Greece and bilingual speakers of h-Greek in Germany and
in the United States. As Table 3 shows, pu RCs are more
frequent than o opios RCs across the three speaker groups in
the different countries, and this holds in both informal and
formal settings.
Zooming in on the question of register variation, it
appears that monolingual speakers actually prefer pu RCs
even in formal settings, something that contradicts the claims
in grammars of Standard Modern Greek. This points to a
process of leveling even in the monolingual group. A similar
pattern is exhibited by the h-groups, who also favor pu RCs
over o opios RCs across settings, and a one-way ANOVA
test15 revealed no significant differences between the three
groups concerning the production of pu RCs in the different
communicative settings.
For o opios RCs, we find differences in the distribution
across registers between groups, as determined by one-way
ANOVA tests {formal: [F(2,171) = 15.99,p<0.0001], informal:
[F(2,171) = 8.877,p<0.0001]}. Our data indicates that the o
opios strategy is preferred in the formal register compared to
the informal one (although at a lower rate than pu RCs). In
this case, there is a statistically significant difference between
14Free RCs are excluded from this account.
15According to the central limit theorem, the sample distribution will be
approximately normally distributed as the sample size is quite large (N>50 items).
TABLE 3 | Quantitative data - distribution of restrictive RCs in different
registers per group.
h-Greek in the
h-Greek in
Informal Pu 165 (99.4%) 150 (82%) 183 (74.7%)
o opios 1 (0.6%) 33 (18%) 62 (26.3%)
Formal Pu 238 (97.9%) 190 (71.7%) 244 (64%)
o opios 5 (2.1%) 75 (28.3%) 137 (36%)
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
groups, as determined by a one-way ANOVA [F(2, 171) = 14.50,
p<0.0001]. Specifically, Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc tests
enabling pairwise comparisons revealed that the United States.
group differs from the other two in the production of o opios
RCs across the different communicative settings (p<0.05).
The preference for formal registers holds in particular for the
monolingual group, and secondly for HSs in Germany. HSs in
the United States rarely use o opios RCs regardless of setting
[as reported also by Lithoksoou (2019), who investigated part
of RUEG corpus].
Taken together, our results indicate register leveling for pu
RCs across monolingual and bilingual speaker groups, and
differences for o opios RCs between different heritage speaker
communities, with those in Germany aligning with monolingual
speakers in Greece.
Such findings underline the relevance of considering register
differentiations in bilinguals and monolinguals alike, while
integrating HSs into the native speaker continuum.
In this manuscript, we argued for a perspective on bilingual
heritage speakers as native speakers of both their languages, and
demonstrated what can be gained from such an approach. We
showed that recognizing heritage speakers as native speakers
is justified on conceptual and theoretical grounds, and that
this perspective is also a better fit for the empirical data.
We presented results from a large-scale, cross-linguistic study
that approached bilingual heritage speakers and monolingual
speakers on equal terms, rather than using monolinguals as
a yardstick for what counts as a competent “native speaker.”
In line with this approach, we targeted actual language use
that covered broader repertoires than just formal language,
and we did so for bilingual and monolingual speakers alike.
To this end, we elicited linguistic productions representative
of speakers’ natural behavior in formal and informal, written
and spoken communicative situations. This provided us with
comparable data across registers, languages, contact-linguistic
settings, and speaker groups, incorporated in an open-access
corpus, the RUEG corpus.
Our findings support the integration of heritage speakers into
the native-speaker continuum and show that they can shed light
on language variation and change in native grammars. In a
number of heritage languages, we find patterns in formal registers
that do not appear in the respective majority settings for those
languages. However, a closer look shows that these patterns are
by no means completely absent from monolingual grammars,
but can be associated with informal registers there. Patterns
that might otherwise have been attributed to bilingualism could
hence inform us on ongoing developments and variation in
native grammars.
Our data points to a range of non-canonical patterns in
monolinguals’ productions that have so far been considered
absent from native grammars. We discussed non-canonical
patterns of participle formation and boundary tones in
Russian; verb-third and bare NPs in German; new referents
in post-verbal position in Turkish; and non-canonical
choices of (in-)definite articles for given vs. new referents
in English. Our study showed that these patterns are not
restricted to heritage speakers, but they occur systematically in
monolinguals as well.
Along similar lines, we found inter-speaker variability
not restricted to bilinguals either. In our data for
German, monolinguals displayed a degree of lexical and
morphosyntactic variation that was sometimes higher than that
of bilinguals, further challenging the model of the streamlined
native speaker.
In majority language use, non-canonical patterns were
dominant in spoken and/or informal registers, and this was true
for monolinguals and bilinguals alike. In majority-English, for
example, spoken registers featured more non-canonical article
choices than written registers in both monolingual and bilingual
speakers, and in majority-German, non-canonical word order
and bare NPs were associated with informal registers.
In several languages, though, our data points to tendencies
of register leveling in heritage contexts. This is presumably
due to a lack of formal schooling: heritage speakers are
mostly exposed to informal language at home and often have
limited access to formal registers. Hence, phenomena typical
for informal settings in majority language use can spread to
formal settings in heritage languages. This points to different
register distributions rather than to distinct grammatical patterns
in heritage speakers. Accordingly, where the heritage language
is also used in formal schooling, e.g., in the case of heritage
German in Namibia, patterns were similar to those found for
majority language use (i.e., German in Germany). As our Greek
data showed, register leveling can also occur in monolingual
speakers: we found that, contrary to claims in the literature,
a non-inflected relativizer is preferred in formal as well as
informal registers, and we found this for monolinguals and
heritage speakers alike.
Some non-canonical patterns in informal settings were more
frequent in bilingual speakers. Heritage speakers can hence
put a unique spotlight on internal developments. In line with
this, several of the non-canonical patterns we found point to
extensions of existing, salient variants and/or ongoing language
change. This underscores the importance of taking into account
a broader range of communicative settings, not just for heritage
speakers, but also for monolinguals.
For heritage languages, our findings also indicate that the size
and cohesion of speech communities can play a role. In smaller,
more widely distributed communities like our populations in the
United States, we sometimes found more diverging patterns. This
does not imply that those options are outside native grammars,
but we might see more variation. Our data point to broader
options of non-canonical word order and bare NPs in heritage
German in the United States, while heritage German in Namibia
patterned with majority German. For heritage Russian, we found
a lower frequency of participles in the United States, while
heritage Russian in Germany patterns with majority Russian.
Our findings also lead us to reconsider the state-of-the art on
majority languages, given recurring evidence for non-canonical
patterns in monolinguals that deviate from what has been
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Wiese et al. Heritage Speakers as Native Speakers
assumed in the literature so far. In the case of the intonational
pattern analyzed in Russian, it was in fact the “deviant” pattern,
that is, the one that differed from those described in the literature,
that we found in monolinguals as well as in one of our heritage
language communities, namely in Germany, but not in the other,
that is, in heritage Russian in the United States.
Taken together, our findings support current calls to normalize
multilingualism. Multilingualism can act as a motor of linguistic
developments, and accordingly, multilingual communities can
afford us a privileged view into ongoing tendencies of language
variation and change. However, this does not make them an
exotic, special case. Our findings put multilinguals’ language
solidly within native grammars, at levels of structure as well
as language use. In order to make full use of the opportunity
that multilingual speakers provide for linguistic theory, we need
to take into account variation in native grammars, including
informal registers, in bilinguals and monolinguals alike.
The datasets presented in this study can be found in online
repositories. The names of the repository/repositories and
accession number(s) can be found below:
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and
approved by DGfS Ethics Committee (Deutsche Gesellschaft
für Sprachwissenschaft/German Society for Linguistics). Written
informed consent to participate in this study was provided by
participants or, in case of minors, their legal guardian/next
of kin.
All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and
intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it
for publication.
Research for this volume was supported through funding by
the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research
Foundation) for the Research Unit “Emerging Grammars in
Language Contact Situations” (AL 554/13-1, 15-1; AL 1886/2-1,
3-1, 4-1; BU 2690/1-1; GA1424/7-1, 10-1; LU 856/16-1; SCHR
1261/3-1, 4-1; SH 1685/1-1; SZ 263/4-1, 6-1; TR 238/5-1, 6-1, 7-1;
WI 2155/10-1, 10-2, 11-1, 12-1, 13-1; and ZE 940/2-1, 4-1).
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Frontiers in Psychology | 19 February 2022 | Volume 12 | Article 717973
... HSs are native speakers in their own right, by virtue of the nature of their acquisition process (for discussion see Pascual et al., 2012;Kupisch and Rothman, 2018;Polinsky, 2018, Chp. 2.3;Wiese et al., 2022). has suggested that when the experimental method involves a gender cue located on an article that is frequent or obligatory in the language, 2 such results are consistent with two possible accounts: under a syntactic account, participants are in fact accessing abstract syntactic information on the article during processing of the noun phrase; under a probabilistic account, the results reflect a mechanism that relies on surface probabilities between frequently cooccurring article-noun pairs (van Heugten and Shi, 2009;Lew-Williams and Fernald, 2010;Melançon and Shi, 2015). ...
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This paper presents the results of an eyetracking study that uses the Visual World Paradigm to determine whether heritage speakers of Polish can use grammatical gender cues to facilitate lexical retrieval of the subsequent noun during real time processing. Previous work has investigated this question for heritage speakers of Spanish with gender cues located on definite articles, which are highly frequent in Spanish; the results are therefore consistent both with a grammatical account, wherein heritage speakers access abstract syntactic gender features during processing, and a probabilistic account, wherein facilitation is due to transition probabilities between frequently co-occurring elements. In Polish, gender cues appear on adjectives, which are optional and infrequent. Results of the present study show that heritage speakers of Polish can use gender on inflected adjectives to fixate on the target noun faster in trials where that gender cue uniquely identifies the target noun. This finding supports a grammatical rather than probabilistic account of the facilitative use of grammatical gender in this population: heritage speakers are able to access abstract syntactic information in real time to aid word recognition in a target-like manner.
... 101-2;Chevalier 2004). Evidence concerning register levelling in heritage languages has recently been discussed in Wiese et al. (2022) for a variety of phenomena and heritage languages (see also Rothman 2007 andPolinsky 2018); one such phenomenon presented in Wiese et al. is the overgeneralization of the indeclinable complementizer pu for the introduction of relative clauses in Greek. Another is the use of light verb constructions for the expression of the perfective Aspect instead of lexical verbs (Alexiadou and Rizou Forthcoming). ...
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This paper investigates the use of kati “some” by Greek Heritage Speakers (HSs) in comparison to monolinguals. While all Greek determiners are marked for gender, case, and number, and agree with their nominal complement, kati is an exception, as it lacks agreement and combines only with plural nouns. Building on the existing literature, we show that its function is to remain vague about the number of individuals/entities denoted. Our hypothesis is that vague language (VL) is a feature of informal conversations and of the spoken language. To this end, we conducted a study in which Heritage Speakers of Greek and monolingual speakers of Greek participated in a production task held in two distinct settings and modalities. In addition, we performed corpus searches to see how both monolingual and Heritage Speakers use kati. The results show that monolingual speakers do indeed prefer kati in the informal register, while Heritage Speakers overgeneralize its use across registers. Our findings confirm the use of vague language in informal registers and oral modality and support claims in the literature on register levelling by Heritage Speakers. Focusing on monolinguals’ repertoire, a judgment task with different levels of formality was additionally performed. These results in principle align with our hypothesis and signal that neither frequency nor other informality contexts trigger a higher rate for kati.
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This book explores crosslinguistic influence in third language acquisition, drawing insights from a study of young bilingual secondary school students in Germany to unpack the importance of different variables in the acquisition and use of English as an additional language. Lorenz draws on data from a learner corpus of written and spoken picture descriptions toward analyzing sources of crosslinguistic influence in L3 acquisition in bilingual heritage speakers with unbalanced proficiency in heritage versus majority languages as compared with their monolingual German peers. This unique approach allows for a clearer understanding of the extent of influence of access to heritage languages, the impact of being a "balanced" vs "unbalanced" bilingual speaker, and the importance of extra-linguistic variables, such as age, gender, socio-economic status, and type of school. The final two chapters highlight practical considerations for the English language classroom and the implications of the study for future directions for research on third language acquisition. With its detailed overview of L2 and L3 acquisition and contribution toward ongoing debates on the advantages of being bilingual and multilingual, this book will be of interest to students and scholars in applied linguistics, foreign language acquisition, foreign language teaching, and learner corpus research.
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Turkish is a language described as relying predominantly on non-finite subordination in the domain of clause combining. However, there are also strategies of finite subordination, as well as means of syndetic and asyndetic paratactic clause combining, especially in the informal settings. Clause combining is and has been one of the focal points of research on heritage Turkish (h-Turkish). One point is particularly clear: In comparison with the monolingual setting, finite means of clause combining are more frequent in h-Turkish in Germany, the U.S., and the Netherlands, while non-finite means of clause combining are less frequent. Overall, our results confirm the findings of earlier studies: heritage speakers in Germany and the U.S. prefer paratactic means of clause combining using connectors, as opposed to monolingual speakers. Our results also reveal that age (adolescents vs. adults) and register (informal vs. formal) significantly modulate the use of connectors. Moreover, we find that the shift in preferences in means of clause combining triggers an expansion in the system of connectors and leads to the development of new narrative connectors, such as o zaman and derken. The system of syndetic paratactic clause combining is expanding in heritage Turkish. This expansion calls for multifaceted modeling of change in heritage languages, which integrates language-internal factors (register), dynamics of convergence with the contact languages, and extra-linguistic factors (age and language use).
Circumstantial (‘central’) adverbials canonically occupy the topologial prefield in German, causing inversion of subject and finite verb. V3 order, with such an adverbial preceding a full V2-clause, is normally excluded in German as a consequence of the (relatively) strict verb-second requirement in that language. However, such orders are attested both in historical as well as modern, particularly urban, varieties. Based on new corpus data and an acceptability study, the present paper will address the question of whether this is a case of diachronic continuity, or whether we are dealing with an innovation and a change in progress.
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In examples as (i), there are two constituents, rather than one, occupying the domain in front of the finite verb (the "forefield") in a German sentence, in violation of the Germanic V2 rule. (i) Heute ich werd meine Zigaretten mitbringen today I will my cigarettes with-bring 'Today, I will bring my cigarettes with me.' Accordingly, such examples are typically marked as "ungrammatical" in discussions of word order options. Yet, over the last years, such data has been attested in a range of Germanic "V2 languages", indicating a systematic option. While initial observations came from multilingual communities, lately there has also been some evidence from monolingual contexts. We pick up on this by showing, through corpus analyses on spontaneous speech from multilingual and monolingual speakers, that what we find here is a genuine V3 option that is integrated into the general topological layout that also supports V2. We argue that this is a systematic-if comparably less frequent-and possibly diachronically old option with a broad distribution that can shed a special light on the nature of verb-second. This variant has been overlooked in analyses so far, underlining the importance of taking into account the whole gamut of language variation for grammatical theory, rather than only standard-close language use.
Advances in Learner Corpus Research (LCR) and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) have brought these two fast-moving fields significantly closer in recent years. This volume brings together contributions from internationally recognized experts in both LCR and SLA to provide an innovative, cross-collaborative examination of how both areas can provide rich insights for the other. Chapters present recent advances in LCR and illustrate in a clear and accessible style how these can be exploited for the study of a broad range of key topics in SLA, such as complexity, tense and aspect, cross-linguistic influence vs. universal processes, phraseology and variability. It concludes with two commentary chapters written by eminent scholars, one from the perspective of SLA, the other from the perspective of LCR, allowing researchers and students alike to reflect upon the mutually beneficial harmony between the two fields and link up LCR and SLA research and theory.
Für das Deutsche wird gemeinhin eine strikte V2-Beschränkung angenommen, die für deklarative Hauptsätze besagt, dass sich vor dem finiten Verb genau eine Konstituente befinden muss. In der Literatur werden häufig Beispiele angeführt, in denen sich zwei Konstituenten vor dem finiten Verb befinden und die somit gegen die V2-Beschränkung verstoßen. Diese syntaktische Konfiguration, so das Argument, führt zu Ungrammatikalität: (1) *Gestern Johann hat getanzt. (Roberts & Roussou 2002:137) Die Bewertung in (1) fußt jedoch nicht auf empirischer Evidenz, sondern spiegelt ein introspektives Urteil der Autor*innen wider. Daten zum tatsächlichen Sprachgebrauch zeigen, dass Sätze wie in (2) im Deutschen durchaus verwendet werden: (2) Aber immer alle sagen das. [BSa-OB, #16] Die Dissertation beschäftigt sich mit dem Status dieser V3-Deklarativsätze im Deutschen. Der Status wird aus drei einander ergänzenden Perspektiven auf Sprache untersucht: Sprachverwendung, Akzeptabilität und Verarbeitung. Hierzu werden Daten, die in einer Korpus-, einer Akzeptabilitäts- und einer Lesezeitstudie erhoben wurden, ausgewertet. Basierend auf den empirischen Befunden diskutiere ich V3-Modellierungen aus generativer Sicht und entwickle einen Modellierungsvorschlag aus konstruktionsgrammatischer Sicht. Die Arbeit zeigt, dass die Einbeziehung von nicht-standardsprachlichen Mustern wichtige Einblicke in die sprachliche Architektur gibt. Insbesondere psycholinguistisch gewonnene Daten als empirische Basis sind essenziell, um mentale sprachliche Prozesse zu verstehen und abbilden zu können. Die Analyse von V3 zeigt, dass solche Ansätze möglich und nötig sind, um Grammatikmodelle zu prüfen und weiterzuentwickeln. Untersuchungen dieser Art stellen Grammatikmodelle in Frage, die oft einer standardsprachlichen Tradition heraus erwachsen sind und nur einen Ausschnitt der sprachlichen Realität erfassen. V3-Sätze entpuppen sich nach dieser Analyse als Strukturen, die fester Bestandteil der Grammatik sind.