Friday, April 8 at 3pm
Greene Hall 145
Within-Sight: Illuminating Heritage Variability via Intra-Group and Intra-Speaker Analyses
University of Richmond
In the relatively young field of heritage language (HL) research, investigators have focused extensively on between-group comparisons, that is to say, comparisons between the linguistic behavior of heritage speakers (HSs) and some type of “baseline” or “control” group (e.g., monolinguals or bilingual first-generation immigrants). Typically, at least in the context of HSs of Spanish in the United States, such comparisons tend to reveal statistically significant differences between the HSs, who often exhibit some type of innovative linguistic behavior (e.g., over-production or over-acceptance of “non-target” HL forms), and a “baseline” group, which usually adheres either categorically (or at least more closely) to so-called standard HL variants. While researchers continue to actively debate the labels that should be used to describe differences between HSs and comparison groups, much less attention has been paid to the underlying logic and value of the between-group comparisons themselves. To what extent can we really understand heritage grammars by comparing them to the grammars of other speakers?
In the present talk, I highlight a commonly overlooked pattern—namely, that HSs’ knowledge of HL properties often both differs from and closely resembles that of baseline groups—and suggest, in light of this pattern, that the best analytical tools for understanding heritage grammars are within-group and within-speaker analyses, respectively. To illustrate the value of foregrounding within-group and within-speaker comparisons, I review recent evidence (Giancaspro, Perez-Cortes & Higdon, 2022) that HSs’ variable (and yet still systematic) production of subjunctive mood morphology in Spanish is modulated by morphological regularity (e.g., whether a verb is regular or “irregular”), a factor that does not appear to shape the subjunctive mood production of so-called “baseline” or “Spanish-dominant” speakers. Following this thorough review, I conclude by showcasing two additional ways that heritage language researchers might choose to look “within” as they seek to better understand variability in HL grammars.