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Aspects of the Phonology of Spanish as a Heritage Language: from Incomplete Acquisition to Transfer*


The present study analyzes percentages of target-like production of Spanish spirantization and assimilation of coda nasals place of articulation, in three groups of bilingual children simultaneously acquiring German and Spanish: two very young groups, one living in Germany and another one in Spain, and a group of 7-year-old bilinguals from Germany. There were monolingual Spanish and monolingual German control groups. The comparison between groups shows that the Spanish of bilinguals is different from that of monolinguals; and the Spanish of bilinguals in Germany is different from that of bilinguals in Spain. Results lead to the conclusion that the Spanish competence of the bilinguals from Germany is still incomplete, and influenced by transfer of the majority language (German). Only bilingual children living in Germany show influence of the majority language onto the heritage language, whereas transfer does not operate on the Spanish competence of the bilingual children from Spain.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Prof. Dr. Conxita Lleó, Maike-Harder-Weg 18, D-22399 Hamburg
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My gratitude goes to the DFG and the Research Center on Multilingualism, University of Hamburg, for their support of the project E3, Prosodic constraints to the phonological and morphological development in bilingual language acquisition. The corpus data are available from the Hamburger Zentrum für Sprachkorpora (HZSK): They are available in CHILDES, as well.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
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