Volume 13, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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This paper reports on an experimental investigation of what second language (L2) learners and heritage speakers of Russian know about the relationship between word order and information structure in Russian. The participants completed a bimodal acceptability judgment task, rating the acceptability of SVO and OVS word orders in narrow-focus contexts, under neutral prosody. Heritage speakers behaved like the control group of baseline speakers, preferring SVO order in answer to object questions, and OVS order in answer to subject questions. In contrast, L2 learners preferred SVO order regardless of the context. While the heritage speaker group was more proficient than the L2 group, proficiency alone cannot account for differences in performance: specifically, with regard to acceptance of OVS order for subject narrow focus, heritage speakers improved with proficiency, but L2 learners did not. It is proposed that heritage speakers have an advantage in this domain due to early age of acquisition (cf. Montrul, 2008). This finding is consistent with prior literature on narrow focus with heritage speakers of other languages, and suggests that this phenomenon is not particularly vulnerable in heritage languages.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): information structure; narrow focus; Russian; word order
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