Edición Instituto Cervantes at FAS - Harvard University
Estudios del Observatorio/Observatorio Studies. 070-04/2021EN (Orig.)
This paper focuses on the language acquisition trajectory of heritage speakers, with an emphasis on heritage speakers of Spanish in the United States, in order to illustrate how this acquisition trajectory provides unique opportunities for the linguistics of bilingualism and language development. The results from an eye-tracking study on the facilitative use of grammatical gender in Fuchs (2021) showed that heritage speakers were able to use gender information on the articles el and la to anticipate the upcoming noun, much like control speakers. In the present work, these findings are put into the context of two broader discussions to illustrate how heritage language studies —particularly on Spanish, which is so commonly spoken by heritage speakers, L2 learners, and first- generation immigrants in the US— may help disentangle various factors involved in language development: (a) nativeness from proficiency, through the case study of processing of grammatical gender agreement in the noun phrase, and (b) language input from general cognitive development, through the case study of spoken word recognition. The need for such studies to incorporate systematic and transparent reporting of participants’ language background and proficiency is also highlighted.
Keywords: Heritage Spanish, bilingualism, heritage linguistics, language acquisition, eye-tracking