Learning from Heritage languages

The starting point of this lecture is the list of things we know about heritage language structure. After outlining what we have learned about heritage languages we will discuss what these languages tell researchers about the overall design of natural language.  Both linguistic theorizing and experimental studies of language development rest heavily on the notion of the adult, perhaps linguistically stable, native speaker. Native speaker competence and use are typically the result of normal first language acquisition in a predominant monolingual environment, with optimal and continuous exposure to the language. In this talk, I present an overview of heritage speakers' linguistic system and discuss several competing factors that shape this system in adulthood. The examination of the linguistic knowledge of heritage speakers allows us to question long-held ideas about the stability of language before the critical period for language development, and the nature of the linguistic system developing under reduced input conditions.