Heritage Speakers

Current Projects

Lexical Development and Oral Proficiency in Portuguese as a Heritage Language

There is a long tradition of measuring vocabulary learning in second language acquisition and establishing its correlation with the overall level of proficiency in the the target language. However, when it comes to heritage languages, the intensive (and not always productive) debate about how to evaluate the language proficiency of heritage speakers made it harder to investigate the potential impact of lexical acquisition in language development. This project looks into possible ways of describing oral proficiency in heritage speakers and its potential correlation with lexical learning. PI: Alexandre dos Santos (UMass)

The Acquisition of Derivational Morphology and Reading Proficiency in Portuguese as a Heritage Language

The acquisition of derivational morphology is not nearly as studied as the acquisition of inflectional morphology in first and additional languages. There are few studies in this area for adult heritage speakers of Spanish (See Zyzik, 2020) but none that we know of for Portuguese. Derivational morphology is an interesting domain of research because it involves regular, rule-based word formation processes at times and at others is highly idiosyncratic. It is late developed in typical L1 speakers, involving extensive input and morphological awareness via schooling, and it is an aspect of the grammar of heritage speakers in which we can observe the production of words that are not coined in the language. We know that these speakers in general had limited access to input compared to typical L1 speakers in both oral and written modalities to support continuous development of derivational morphology. Thus, the importance of testing an adult heritage population is paramount to see what factors affect their ability to perform in this domain. This project focuses on derivational morphology and its potential correlation with the development of reading proficiency in Portuguese heritage speakers. (PI: Marco Túlio Bittencourt)

Current Collaborations

Heritage Language Vocabulary Assessment

This is an ongoing collaboration between members of the Polyglot Lab and the Laboratório de Psicolinguística at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil). The current collaboration lead to the development of a vocabulary level test (VLT) for Portuguese as a second language, which is currently being tested with heritage speakers of Portuguese in Massachusetts. PIs: Alexandre Alves Santos (UMass), Thaís de Sá (UFMG) , Ricardo de Souza (UFMG), Luiz Amaral (UMAss).

The Heritage Language 2 Consortium

The Polyglot Lab is a strategic partner of the Heritage Language 2 Consortium in Europe. The first objective of the Consortium is to promote research on heritage and second language learning in a variety of settings (from naturalistic development to classroom-based instruction) and across different age groups (children, adolescents and adults). The main focus is on the acquisition of Portuguese in multilingual settings, but the insights gained from Consortium projects are applicable to other languages. In 2022, we co-organized the first Heritage Language Around the World Conference in Lisbon. The next version of the conference will be at UMass Amherst in 2024.