Highly Proficient Bilinguals Maintain the Language-Specific Pragmatic Constraints on Pronouns: Evidence from Speech and Gesture

Abstract

In this paper, we study the two modalities of language, speech and gesture, and ask how they reveal cross-linguistic influence on the use of subject pronouns in bilingual narratives. We elicited narratives from heritage speakers of Turkish in the Netherlands, in both Turkish (pro-drop) and Dutch (non-pro-drop), as well as from monolingual control groups. The use of pronouns was not very common in monolingual Turkish and was constrained by pragmatic contexts, unlike in Dutch. Furthermore, Turkish pronouns were more likely to be accompanied by localized gestures than Dutch pronouns, presumably because pronouns in Turkish are pragmatically marked forms. We did not find cross-linguistic influence in bilingual speech or gesture patterns: Highly proficient heritage speakers maintain monolingual patterns of pragmatic constraints on the use of pronouns multimodally. We suggest that speech and gesture parallel each other also in bilingual production in language contact contexts.


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