Who did what to whom, and what did we already know? Word order and information structure in heritage and L2 Russian

Tania Ionin, Maria Goldshtein, Tatiana Luchkina, Sofya Styrina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper reports on an experimental investigation of what second language (L2) learners and heritage speakers of Russian know about the relationship between word order and information structure in Russian. The participants completed a bimodal acceptability judgment task, rating the acceptability of SVO and OVS word orders in narrow-focus contexts, under neutral prosody. Heritage speakers behaved like the control group of baseline speakers, preferring SVO order in answer to object questions, and OVS order in answer to subject questions. In contrast, L2 learners preferred SVO order regardless of the context. While the heritage speaker group was more proficient than the L2 group, proficiency alone cannot account for differences in performance: specifically, with regard to acceptance of OVS order for subject narrow focus, heritage speakers improved with proficiency, but L2 learners did not. It is proposed that heritage speakers have an advantage in this domain due to early age of acquisition (cf. Montrul, 2008). This finding is consistent with prior literature on narrow focus with heritage speakers of other languages, and suggests that this phenomenon is not particularly vulnerable in heritage languages.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - Aug 20 2021

Keywords

  • Russian
  • Word order
  • Information structure
  • narrow focus

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