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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Cristina FLORES

Co-Auteur(s): Ana Lúcia SANTOS, University of Lisbon / Portugal

Transfer effects in heritage speakers and late L2-learners of European Portuguese: verb movement, VP ellipsis and adverb placement

Abstract/Résumé: Most studies on heritage bilingualism have reported that the linguistic competence of heritage speakers (HS) in their home language differs from the competence of monolingual speakers of the same age and social background (Pires & Rothman 2009). Additionally, recent studies, which compare HS with L2 speakers, suggest that heritage bilinguals outperform L2 learners in areas like phonology or core morphosyntax (Montrul 2010). However, HS and L2 learners also seem to share many common characteristics, such as the type of errors they make. Montrul (2010) claims that both groups also show evidence of similar effects of crosslinguistic transfer, at least regarding aspects set at the interfaces of syntax and semantics/pragmatics. This study compares the performance of adult L2 speakers of European Portuguese (EP) and 9-10 year-old Portuguese heritage children concerning their knowledge of adverb placement and VP ellipsis. Certain aspects of adverb placement can be seen as reflecting pure syntactic properties and they have been used to evaluate L2 acquisition of verb movement (White 1991), while VP ellipsis, a deleted VP recoverable on the basis of a discourse antecedent, is known to be at the crossroads between syntax and discourse Four groups participated in the study: 20 EP monolingual children, 21 EP L1 adults, 20 Portuguese heritage children who live in Germany and 21 late-L2 learners of Portuguese whose L1 is German. They responded to 3 written tasks: an elicited production task and a grammaticality judgment task centered on adverb placement; an elicited production task which created a situation in which the speaker was asked to solve redundancy and intended to elicit VP ellipsis, but which could be solved by using other strategies. Regarding adverbs, the results do not show evidence of German V2 influence: both heritage children and L2 adults accept non V2 word orders. On the contrary, even though both L2 and heritage speakers can use VP ellipsis, confirming acquisition of V-to-I, L2 speakers show transfer effects. L2 speakers produce less VP ellipsis than the control group, preferring to use (pseudo-)stripping, a strategy that might have been transferred from the L1 grammar. This may signal either vulnerability of the syntax-discourse interface particularly affecting L2, or it may instead indicate that transfer effects may survive under the form of reinforcement strategies when other types of transfer effects are not visible. Heritage children seem to present a more complex pattern that shows more similarity to L1 children but does not exclude smaller crosslinguistic influence effects.