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Academic Paper

Title: Morphosyntactic knowledge of clitics by Portuguese heritage bilinguals
Author: Esther Rinke
Institution: Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main
Author: Cristina Maria Flores
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University for Foreigners Perugia
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Syntax
Subject Language: German
Abstract: This paper focuses on the linguistic competence of adult Portuguese–German bilinguals in their heritage language, European Portuguese (EP), which they acquired at home in early childhood in the context of German as the majority language. Based on a grammaticality judgment test, we investigate their morphosyntactic knowledge of clitics. The central questions are whether possible deviations from native monolinguals may be traced back to a) lack of contact with the formal register; b) reduced input after preschool age; and c) cross-linguistic influence. The results reveal qualitative differences between the heritage speakers and a group of monolingual controls in almost all test conditions. We conclude that although the linguistic knowledge of the heritage bilinguals investigated in this study differs from that of monolinguals, it is not “deficient” but “different” and “innovative”, because it is primarily based on the spoken variety of the language and because it promotes linguistic changes which are inherent in the speech of native monolinguals.


This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 17, Issue 4.

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