The Psycholinguistics of Heritage Languages

Jill Jegerski, Irina Sekerina

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There is a natural affinity between psycholinguistics and research on heritage language acquisition. First, language acquisition is a core area of study in psycholinguistics (along with language processing and language disorders). Second, psycholinguistics often employs technologically advanced methods such as eye-tracking for empirical language research; such methods are also receiving increasing attention in research on heritage speakers because underdeveloped literacy means that some more traditional empirical tests can put them at a disadvantage relative to prototypical native speakers and second language learners. This chapter provides a review of psycholinguistic research on adult heritage speakers, including speech perception and production, lexical and morphological processing, sentence processing, and processing at levels beyond the sentence, using both offline and online (i.e., real-time) methods. Some overarching issues that are relevant to much of the research in this chapter include cross-linguistic influence between the two languages of a heritage bilingual and the role of language background variables like age of acquisition, early exposure, and proficiency level. To our knowledge, this is the first review of psycholinguistic work with heritage speakers that includes all languages.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Heritage Languages and Linguistics
EditorsSilvina Montrul, Maria Polinsky
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781108766340
ISBN (Print)9781108487269
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Publication series

NameCambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics


  • heritage speakers
  • sentence processing
  • lexical processing
  • cross-linguistic influence
  • psycholinguistics


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