A Portrait of Lexical Knowledge among Adult Hebrew Heritage Speakers Dominant in American English: Evidence from Naming and Narrative Tasks

Clara Fridman, Natalia Meir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

While the field of heritage language (HL) bilingualism has grown substantially in recent years, no studies have considered heritage Hebrew speakers dominant in American English. Expanding HL studies to new language pairs is crucial to understand the generalizability of prior findings across diverse linguistic contexts. In the current study, we assess 40 adult participants (16 M, 24 F) and present an overview of their lexical abilities, as derived from a quantitative and qualitative analysis of performance on the Multilingual Naming Test (MINT) and a narrative elicitation task. We consider target accuracy, types of non-target responses, and cross-linguistic influence in the form of code-switching and calquing. Participants’ non-target responses indicated a strong grasp of Hebrew root-pattern word formation and creativity in the face of lexical gaps. Code-switching and calquing patterns in the narratives suggest that the dominant English is the clear framing language, from which speakers draw resources directly or indirectly. Although this linguistic blending leads to innovative lexical formations that would not be found in standard monolingual speech, the speakers’ overall message is still understandable. We conclude that heritage Hebrew speakers are able to clearly communicate complex thoughts in their HL while relying on their dominant language to fill lexical gaps.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalLanguages
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.

Keywords

  • Hebrew
  • cross-linguistic influence
  • heritage languages

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