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The Acquisition of Heritage Languages

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Academic Paper


Title: Syntactic transfer in English-speaking Spanish learners
Author: Laura M. Morett
Institution: University of California
Author: Brian Macwhinney
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: English
Spanish
Abstract: Competition Model studies of second language learners have demonstrated that there is a gradual replacement of first language cues for thematic role assignment by second language cues. The current study introduced two methodological innovations in the investigation of this process. The first was the use of mouse-tracking methodology (Spivey, 2007) to assess the online process of thematic role assignment. The second was the inclusion of both a task with language-specific cues and a task with language-common cues. The results of the language-common cue task indicated that, as English-dominant learners become more balanced between English and Spanish, they rely increasingly on a coalition between the animacy cue and the subject–verb agreement cue. However, the results of the language-specific cue task reveal that learners also rely on the cue of prepositional case marking in Spanish and nominal case marking in English. These results provide evidence of forward transfer, backward transfer, and rapid acquisition of cue-based sentence interpretation strategies in second language learning.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 16, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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