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[Speaker Series] Investigations into word order and information structure in the Russian of heritage speakers and second language learners

By Dr. Tania Ionin, December 3, 2021, 9:30 - 11:00 am

Dr. Tania Ionin is Professor of Linguistics and Director of Graduate Studies in Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she has been employed since 2007. She received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science, with a minor in Linguistics, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. Dr. Ionin conducts research in second language acquisition, experimental semantics, and the syntax/semantics interface. Her research is firmly grounded in linguistic theory and uses a variety of behavioral research methodologies. She has published in journals that specialize in language acquisition, second language acquisition, and theoretical linguistics; she also has a co-authored monograph with Ora Matushansky on the syntax and semantics of cardinals, published by MIT Press in 2018. Dr. Ionin is an associate editor for the journal Language Acquisition, and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals in language acquisition as well as theoretical linguistics.

This talk gives an overview of experimental studies on word order, information structure and prosody in Russian as a second and heritage language, conducted in collaboration with Maria Goldshtein, Tatiana Luchkina and Sofya Styrina. Adult second language learners (L2ers) learn Russian after puberty, typically in a classroom setting. In contrast, heritage speakers (HSs) are exposed to Russian at home, but typically become dominant in the language of the society, such as English or Hebrew (cf. Polinsky 2007, 2011). HSs are known to have selective advantages over L2ers in certain domains, notably phonology, while patterning with L2ers in other domains (Montrul 2008), but there have been very few comparisons between HSs and L2ers of Russian. This talk will report on studies that compare these populations on several phenomena involving word order manipulations, including (i) narrow information focus in prosodically neutral (non-emotive) sentences with SVO vs. OVS order; (ii) the correspondence between contrastive focus and prosodic prominence in emotive sentences; and (iii) availability of surface scope vs. inverse scope readings to SVO vs. OVS sentences under different prosodic contours.

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