How Many Collocations do Heritage Speakers Know? The Effects of Linguistic and Individual Variables

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Eve Zyzik


The current study examines a previously understudied dimension of heritage speakers’ lexical knowledge by focusing on verbal collocations. Two tests were designed in order to assess both receptive (recognition) and productive (recall) knowledge of sixty Spanish collocations. The collocations were divided into three types (congruent, partially congruent, and incongruent) based on a ratings survey that established their degree of correspondence with English. Participants’ language dominance and their use of Spanish in various daily activities were included as individual variables. The results indicate that the participants knew a vast majority of the collocations on the recognition test, but that their ability to recall the collocations was somewhat more limited. Congruency had a significant effect on participants’ performance, but this finding must be interpreted in light of the interaction between congruency and word frequency. Significant correlations were found between performance on both tests and language dominance, as well as a number of variables involving interaction in Spanish (text messaging) and exposure (listening to music, reading for fun). These data are discussed in relation to previous studies on the acquisition of collocations and heritage speakers’ knowledge of individual words.

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