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Morphosyntactic Restructuring in Child Heritage Georgian

In: Heritage Language Journal
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  • 1 The Graduate Center, City University of New York
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This study investigates morphosyntactic restructuring in Heritage Georgian, a highly agglutinative language with polypersonal agreement. Child heritage speakers of Georgian (n = 26, age 3-16) completed a Frog Story narrative task and a lexical proficiency task in Georgian. Heritage speaker narratives were compared to narratives produced by age-matched peers living in Georgia (n = 30, age 5-14) and Georgian children and young adults who moved to the United States during childhood (n = 7, age 9–24). Heritage Georgian speakers produced more instances of non-standard nominal case marking and non-standard verbal subject agreement than their homeland peers. Individual morphosyntactic divergence was predicted by lexical score, but not by oral fluency or age. Patterns of divergence in the nominal domain included overuse of the default case (nominative) as well as over-extension of non-default cases (ergative, dative). In the verbal domain, person agreement was more consistently marked than number. Subject agreement exhibited more divergence from the baseline than object agreement, contrary to previous evidence from similar heritage languages (e.g., Heritage Hindi, Montrul et al., 2012). Results indicate that morphosyntactic production in child Heritage Georgian generally displays the same divergences as adult heritage-language grammars, but language-specific differences also underscore the need for continued documentation of lesser-studied heritage languages.

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