Heritage Language Acquisition in Cyprus: Longitudinal and Cross-sectional analysis

Karpava, Sviatlana orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8416-1431 (2019) Heritage Language Acquisition in Cyprus: Longitudinal and Cross-sectional analysis. In: Proceedings of GALA 2017 Language Acquisition and Development. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 399-418. ISBN 978-1-5275-2190-2

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The present study is focused on language proficiency and literacy skills of Russian–Cypriot Greek bilingual children, Russian heritage speakers, children of the first generation immigrants living in Cyprus. Their dominant society language is Cypriot Greek, while their home (weak/minority) language is Russian. They have limited exposure to Russian, only at home, and low level of schooling in Russian, only 1-2 hours of Russian lessons per week (Saturday schools). Both cross-sectional and longitudinal methodology was implemented to investigate developmental trajectory, dominant language transfer, divergent attainment and attrition of L1 by Russian heritage speakers in Cyprus (Polinsky and Kagan 2007; Montrul 2008, Benmamoun et al. 2013). Heritage speakers were measured on their reading and writing skills in Russian every month for a period of one year. Longitudinal data consists of the written corpus of dictations and oral corpus of reading aloud recordings. Oral Russian spontaneous and elicited speech production of their mothers is also under investigation as this allows to reveal the native baseline (Russian) and the actual input that the children receive. It was found that heritage children were better at reading than writing, comprehension than production. They had both developmental and transfer (from CG) spelling errors in their dictations. There was found a correlation between speech rate, word-per-minute output in reading and spontaneous/elicited speech, and degree of grammatical knowledge, this is in line with Polinsky (2008, 2011). Overall, the results show that these bilingual children have better comprehension in both languages, Russian and Greek, than production. The gap between production and comprehension can be eliminated with more exposure to both languages and more output in both languages (Thordardottir 2011).

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