Does timing in acquisition modulate heritage childrens language abilities? Evidence from the Greek LITMUS sentence repetition task

  • Recent proposals suggest that timing in acquisition, i.e., the age at which a phenomenon is mastered by monolingual children, influences acquisition of the L2, interacting with age of onset of bilingualism and amount of L2 input. Here, we examine whether timing affects acquisition of the bilingual child’s heritage language, possibly modulating the effects of environmental and child-internal factors. The performance of 6- to 12-year-old Greek heritage children residing in Germany (age of onset of German: 0–4 years) was assessed across a range of nine syntactic structures via the Greek LITMUS (Language Impairment Testing in Multilingual Settings) Sentence Repetition Task. Based on previous studies on monolingual Greek, the structures were classified as “early” (main clauses (SVO), coordination, clitics, complement clauses, sentential negation, non-referential wh-questions) or as “late” (referential wh-questions, relatives, adverbial clauses). Current family use of Greek and formal instruction in Greek (environmental), chronological age, and age of onset of German (child-internal) were assessed via the Questionnaire for Parents of Bilingual Children (PABIQ); short-term memory (child-internal) was measured via forward digit recall. Children’s scores were generally higher for early than for late acquired structures. Performance on the three early structures with the highest scores was predicted by the amount of current family use of Greek. Performance on the three late structures was additionally predicted by forward digit recall, indicating that higher short-term memory capacity is beneficial for correctly reconstructing structurally complex sentences. We suggest that the understanding of heritage language development and the role of child-internal and environmental factors will benefit from a consideration of timing in the acquisition of the different structures.
Author:Christos Makrodimitris, Petra SchulzORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Languages
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/03/15
Date of first Publication:2021/03/15
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2021/05/26
Tag:Greek; age of onset; current language use; early acquired phenomena; heritage language acquisition; heritage language instruction; late acquired phenomena; sentence repetition; short-term memory; timing in acquisition
Issue:1, art. 49
Page Number:17
First Page:1
Last Page:17
Institutes:Neuere Philologien
Dewey Decimal Classification:4 Sprache / 40 Sprache / 400 Sprache
Open-Access-Publikationsfonds:Neuere Philologien
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0