Research Talk by Dr. Alejandro Cuza-Blanco

Join CAL, CeLTA Staff, and the CeLTA Director Search Committee for a research talk by Dr. Alejandro Cuza-Blanco, Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, Director of Linguistics, and Director of the Heritage Language Program in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Purdue University.

Research Talk Title:  The Acquisition of Spanish as a Heritage Language during Childhood: Reconciling Formal and Pedagogical Theorizing

The first part of this talk discusses the acquisition of grammatical gender and N/ADJ word order in Spanish-English bilingual children. A picture-naming task revealed overextension of the masculine form and high levels of ungrammatical word order strings. There were no significant differences by age with gender concord or N/ADJ word order. I argue that the differences found stem from a re-assembly of gender features leading to both morphological and syntactic variability. This approach conceptualizes heritage language variation along the lines of current linguistic theorizing regarding the role of innate linguistic principles and language experience. The second part of the talk discusses the role of literacy instruction in the development of reading and writing skills in young Spanish heritage children (K-4). Measures included phonological awareness, receptive vocabulary knowledge, word reading accuracy and fluency. Results showed significant gains for the treatment group across all measures. Contextualized and explicit instruction on word reading and decoding, as well as oral language and vocabulary knowledge, helped the children develop literacy skills in their L1. The study provides strong evidence towards validating the efficacy of service-learning/engagement programs aimed at facilitating early child bilingual development.