Cole Callen
February 17, 2023
9:00 am

Cole Callen

“Examining Grammatical Variation in English-Dominant Heritage Speakers of Spanish: Explanations From Production and Comprehension”

Cole Callen, Graduate Student in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at Penn State

Friday, February 17, 9:00–10:30 a.m. EST, in 127 Moore Building and virtually via Zoom

Due to its heterogeneous nature, bilingual language development often leads to variable outcomes. The case of heritage speakers—that is, bilingual speakers whose first and home language is a minoritized language in the society in which they were raised—represents a unique instance of bilingual acquisition. In some (but not all) cases, the environmental complexity of HSs’ context of acquisition leads to divergence in their knowledge and use of grammatical patterns in the heritage language compared to baseline speakers. In this talk, Cole Callen will describe (preliminary) findings from three separate experiments that investigate the production and comprehension of a variable grammatical form—differential object marking—in HSs of Spanish. Language-internal variation has not been the focus of research on heritage speakers, although recent calls for more attention to this topic have been made (e.g., Flores & Rinke, 2020; Nagy & Gadanidis, 2021). The results from two production experiments lead us to two primary findings: (1) there is great inter-speaker variability in grammatical production in the heritage language; and (2) the variable grammatical patterns of HSs also have language-internal explanations. Data from a self-paced listening task suggest that HSs may process variable grammatical constructions differently from Spanish-dominant bilinguals. While both groups of speakers show no sensitivity to the differential object marker in one condition, the HSs show more variable comprehension across conditions. Thus, linguistic variation present in baseline Spanish speakers may lead to further variation in HSs of Spanish. The findings from these three studies will be discussed in light of newer proposals for bilingual grammars, especially that of bilingual alignments (Sánchez, 2019).