Restructuring in heritage grammars
Adjective-noun and numeral-noun expressions in Israeli Russian
This study investigates restructuring in heritage language (HL) grammars with a special focus on the driving forces behind changes in the underlying grammar. We evaluate the effect of Age of Onset of bilingualism (AoO) on possible grammatical restructuring. Relatedly, we assess whether HL grammar divergence from the baseline can be attributed to the Age of Acquisition of a particular linguistic phenomenon and/or to the structural properties of the dominant language, under transfer.
With these general questions in mind, we conducted an auditory acceptability judgement task evaluating sensitivity to form (mis)matches in adjective-noun and numeral-noun expressions in adult Russian-Hebrew speakers: HL-speakers with AoO before age 5, HL-speakers with AoO between 5–13, and the Russian-dominant bilinguals.
The results demonstrate a robust effect of AoO: HL speakers with earlier AoO are less accurate in detecting ungrammaticalities across the board. We argue that similarities in the structures in the heritage and dominant language allow HL speakers to maintain properties of monolingual grammars; dissimilarities, on the other hand, may lead to reanalysis in the HL grammar. However, the newly-built representations in the HL do not match those of the dominant language, suggesting that changed representations do not result from direct transfer.