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IS LEARNING A STANDARD VARIETY SIMILAR TO LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE?: Evidence from Heritage Speakers of Arabic

  • Elabbas Benmamoun (a1) and Abdulkafi Albirini (a2)
Abstract

This study examines heritage speakers’ knowledge of Standard Arabic (SA) and compares their patterns of SA acquisition to those of learners of SA as second/foreign language (L2). In addition, the study examines the influence of previously acquired language varieties, including Colloquial Arabic (QA), on SA acquisition.1 To this end, the study compares 35 heritage speakers, 28 L2 learners, and 16 controls with respect to sentential negation, an area where SA and QA diverge significantly. The participants completed five oral tasks targeting negation of eight different clause types. The findings showed that L2 learners and heritage speakers performed comparably, encountered similar difficulties, and produced similar patterns of errors. However, whereas L2 learners did not display clear transfer effects from L1 (English), heritage speakers showed both positive and negative influence of L1 (QA). The results shed light on the dynamics of the interaction between the spoken heritage languages and their written standard counterparts with specific focus on diglossic contexts.

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Corresponding author
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elabbas Benmamoun, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 218 Swanlund Administration Building, 601 E. John Street, Champaign, IL 61820. E-mail: benmamou@illinois.edu
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We would like to thank the participants and research assistants for their help with the study. We would also like to express our gratitude to the three anonymous reviewers and the editors for their helpful and constructive comments and suggestions. We would like to acknowledge the statistical advice and support offered by Xin Dai and Mamoun Benmamoun. We also would like to thank Farzad Karimzad Sharifi who helped with editing an early version of the manuscript. We are solely responsible for any errors in the article.

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Studies in Second Language Acquisition
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