Attrition in an American Norwegian Heritage Language Speaker

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This paper investigates the language of one person: an elderly bilingual lady who speaks Heritage Norwegian in addition to English. Her heritage language production reveals language that is different both from what we know of Heritage Norwegian from other sources and from European Norwegian, and which is taken to be the result of language attrition. Her language is therefore well-suited for studying the regression hypothesis (Jakobson 1941), i.e., whether what is learnt first is retained longest, and whether what is learnt last is lost first. After having established the order of acquisition, her morphological and syntactic production is investigated. The paper examines the noun-phrase-related categories of definiteness suffix, indefinite determiner, compositional definiteness and pronouns, as well as clause-related structures: verb second (V2) word order with topicalization, V2 with negation, and target V3 in subordinate clauses. The main result is that the regression hypothesis is supported.


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