Funded Projects


The Heritage-bilingual Linguistic Proficiency in their Native Grammar (HeLPiNG) project is a multimillion-euro grant funded by Tromsø Forskningsstiftelse (Tromsø Research Foundation) (2019-2023). Heritage language bilingualism has shown significant degrees of variation in development, but especially ultimate attainment outcomes from monolinguals of the same language and across individual heritage speakers. The primary objective of HeLPiNG is to answer: Why is Heritage language bilingualism characterized by such variation in grammatical knowledge and language use to degrees unseen in monolinguals? By addressing these equally fundamental secondary objective questions: (Aim 1) when and why do developing monolinguals and HSs begin to diverge for the same language?, (Aim 2) at what levels (under what modalities of testing) do HSs truly differ? and (Aim 3) what is the role of the (lack of) HL literacy in explaining (some) observed HS outcomes? HeLPiNG will address these queries combining insights from several work packages focusing on complementary questions and using complementary methodologies (cross-sectional and longitudinal offline behavioral testing, EEG/ERP, eye-tracking). 


Linguistic Economy through transfer Source Selectivity (LESS) is a neurocognitive examination of linguistic transfer in multilingualism. The primary objective of LESS is to examine how the mind reuses and repurposes linguistic knowledge when it is similar across languages, helping to avoid repetition in learning, and how this efficiency is implemented at the level of brain function. This phenomenon, called linguistic transfer, can be studied most meaningfully in multilingualism (three or more languages), because the learner has more linguistic experience/knowledge available. This rich background raises the stakes: choosing the right language, the one that is most similar to the language we are learning, becomes a crucial task that can lead to shortcuts in learning or to costly errors that must later be undone. LESS examines the psychological mechanisms and neurophysiological correlates behind this unconscious selection. In the process, it secondarily addresses the role of core cognitive components, such as attention and memory, in detecting and tracking cross-linguistic similarities that lead to linguistic transfer.


Heritage Language Acquisition: The qualitative nature of input and cross-linguistic influence (HeLA) is funded by the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) (January 1, 2022 – April 25, 2024). This project aims to understand why heritage speaker (HS) grammars develop the way they do, by focusing on the severely understudied population of pre-teenage heritage speakers of Spanish. Instead of taking the more traditional approach of comparing heritage speakers to monolingual controls, HeLA focuses on individual differences between speakers, and to what extent extra-linguistic factors such as use and exposure of the HL can explain them. In addition to input quantity, this project also examines the role of input quality by focusing on cross-generational attrition: the situation where HSs’ parents might exhibit changes in their L1 use which get passed on to the next generation of HSs. This issue is approached by establishing a one-to-one connection between the child heritage speakers and their parents. Moreover, HeLA ask to what extent cross-linguistic influence from the societal language plays a role, by comparing heritage Spanish in two different linguistic contexts in Europe – the UK and The Netherlands – and looking at phenomena that are instantiated differently in English and Dutch: grammatical gender and subject expression. Behavioral and online measures of competence are combined to examine whether the type of task brings anything to bear on the participants’ performances.

Investigating Proxies for Understanding Trajectories: Heritage Language Maintenance and Child Second Language Acquisition in Refugee Contexts (INPUT) will examine heritage language and child second language development in the European refugee context. The project is funded by the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) (March 1, 2021 – August 31, 2023). INPUT will significantly add to a sub-field of bilingualism studies, Heritage Language Bilingualism (HLB), by studying refugee heritage speakers in Europe, an understudied subset of HLB. This empirical study will investigate linguistic and extra-linguistic variables affecting the development of both the societal majority language and the heritage language with the goal of impacting education policy development. Heritage language Syrian Arabic in Germany and second language German will be investigated with a focus on 6- to 12-year-old children to examine developmental trajectories. The overall research objective is to understand the extent to which increased or reduced heritage language exposure affects heritage language and child second language trajectories and outcomes. For Europe, supporting refugee youth can have significant impact towards the publicly stated goal of integrating this population into their newly adopted countries. One major impediment to this integration is their successful acquisition of the societal majority language while maintaining and developing the first language. Our hypothesis is that support for continued development in the heritage language will improve second language development with knock-on effects for the academic achievement of refugees. At present, heritage language support and training varies tremendously all over Europe. Project findings will be relevant especially for policy makers, teachers, school principals and HLB communities in European countries that have seen a notable increase of Syrian Arabic heritage speakers. To date, most heritage language studies have focused exclusively on the minority language, INPUT helps to fill an important gap by focusing on both languages.

Cross-Linguistic Influence of Competing Knowledge: Comparative Morphosyntactic Variations in Heritage Language Development. The project is funded by the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA)Due to increasing global mobility, research into how immigrants acquire and use multiple languages has become a major topic in the past few decades. However, comparatively little is known about how the developmental trajectories of native minority languages (i.e. heritage languages (HLs)) are shaped alongside the societal languages in their children who are heritage speakers (HSs). The CLICK project, as the first study to investigate how different societal languages leave their traces on the developmental trajectories of the same HL, will make a significant contribution to an emergent subfield of bilingualism, namely Heritage Language Bilingualism (HLB). This will be done by studying HSs of Persian/Farsi in contact with two societally dominant languages in France and Spain. We will innovatively combine offline and online methodologies to explore whether or not the syntactic status of pronominal subjects (null and overt subjects in the case of Spanish versus overt subjects only as in French) affects the development and maintenance of related properties in Persian as a HL. Additionally, we will strive to establish if a novel co-registered methodology which combines online and offline measures in the same task offers a promising test battery to better capture underlying grammars of HSs in different language contact situations.