Exploring the source of differences and similarities in L1 attrition and heritage speaker competence: Evidence from pronominal resolution

Kaltsa, M 
Tsimpli, IM 
Rothman, J 

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Several studies of different bilingual groups including L2 learners, child bilinguals, heritage speakers and L1 attriters reveal similar performance on syntax-discourse interface properties such as anaphora resolution (Sorace, 2011 and references therein). Specifically, bilinguals seem to allow more optionality in the interpretation of overt subject pronouns in null subject languages, such as Greek, Italian and Spanish while the interpretation of null subject pronouns is indistinguishable from monolingual natives. Nevertheless, there is some evidence pointing to bilingualism effects on the interpretation of null subject pronouns too in heritage speakers' grammars (Montrul, 2004) due to some form of 'arrested' development in this group of bilinguals. The present study seeks to investigate similarities and differences between two Greek-Swedish bilingual groups, heritage speakers and L1 attriters, in anaphora resolution of null and overt subject pronouns in Greek using a self-paced listening with a sentence-picture matching decision task at the end of each sentence. The two groups differ in crucial ways: heritage speakers were simultaneous or early bilinguals while the L1 attriters were adult learners of the second language, Swedish. Our findings reveal differences from monolingual preferences in the interpretation of the overt pronoun for both heritage and attrited speakers while the differences attested between the two groups in the interpretation of null subject pronouns affect only response times with heritage being faster than attrited speakers. We argue that our results do not support an age of onset or differential input effects on bilingual performance in pronoun resolution.

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Pronominal resolution, Heritage speakers, L1 attrition
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