A strategic partnership for the study of Portuguese in multilingual settings

Category: Seminars (Page 2 of 3)

HL2C Seminar: Montserrat Comesaña (Minho), The representational nature of grammatical gender: The relevance of language transparency

We are pleased to announce the next HL2C seminar, taking place on Thursday 24th February from 3pm-4pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London).


Montserrat Comesaña (Minho)


The representational nature of grammatical gender: The relevance of language transparency

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


The study of the representation and processing of grammatical gender during noun lexical access in language production has reached controversial results across languages. For Germanic and Slavic languages, a context of agreement has been widely found to be necessary for the emergence of gender competitive effects (e.g., slower responses when two nouns of different gender compete for selection than when these nouns are of same gender –gender congruency effect). For Romance languages, the results are instead puzzling, since some studies find that this context of agreement is necessary, but others do not. Thus, available evidence seems to support the idea that gender nodes would behave differently across language families. The picture is even more clouded with bilingual populations. Late bilinguals who carried out naming and translation tasks showed a gender congruency effect (i.e., faster responses for gender-congruent translation pairs) independently from the language family and the presence of an agreement context. The reason behind the effects obtained with late bilinguals of Germanic languages producing bare nouns (BNs) remains unknown. Here, we will present a series of experiments which are aimed at testing the tenets of a recent hypothesis developed in our lab: the Gender Acquisition and Processing (GAP) hypothesis. This hypothesis explains data discrepancies across studies with native speakers of different languages as a result of differences in the basal activation level of gender nodes due to the disparity in the degree of phonological gender transparency of each language. Also, it explain the findings with late bilinguals as a result of the way second languages (L2s) are learned and used.

HL2C/SLLAT Seminar: Xiaobin Chen (Tübingen): AISLA – An intelligent agent for second language English learning in real-life contexts

Another exciting HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday 9th February from 12 noon to 1pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London).


Xiaobin Chen (Tübingen)


Aisla—An intelligent agent for second language English learning in real-life contexts (Joint talk with Lancaster’s SLLAT Group.)

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


Aisla, a project funded by the German Ministry of Education, aims at developing an Intelligent Computer Assisted Language Learning (ICALL) system for training spoken English within real-life contexts. The system features design principles of Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT), naturalistic speech interaction with AI-powered conversation agents, and live adaptive feedback with Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies. In this talk, the Aisla team will present the design principles of ICALL language learning tasks, describe the Aisla system architecture, and demonstrate the current state of a mobile app implementing the above-mentioned features. We will also talk about the outlook of the project and the unique opportunities the Aisla system may offer to second language acquisition research.

HL2C Seminar: Shanley Allen (Kaiserslautern), Cross-linguistic influence in heritage language speakers?

We are pleased to announce that another HL2C seminar will take place on Thursday 27th January from 3pm to 4pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London).


Shanley Allen (Kaiserslautern)


Information structure in the majority English of heritage speakers: Cross-linguistic influence and other patterns

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


Most linguistic research on heritage speakers to date has focused on their heritage language (Benmamoun et al. 2013; Kupisch 2013; Montrul 2016). In contrast, much less is known about patterns in their majority language, especially for adolescents and adults. In majority English, for example, only a few studies have been published to date, all focused on semantic structures (Lee et al. 2011; Montrul & Ionin 2010; Scontras et al. 2017).

To address this gap, we undertook a large-scale project investigating noncanonical patterns in majority English as produced by adolescent and adult heritage speakers of German, Greek, Russian and Turkish as well as English monolinguals in the USA – part of the Research Unit on Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations (RUEG). The 276 participants in our study all recounted a short video of a (fictitious) car accident, in each of four registers (informal spoken, informal written, formal spoken, formal written). Narratives were all transcribed and annotated in Exmaralda. We then explored several patterns related to information structure, particularly in the domains of referential expression and syntactic construction. Consistent with RUEG’s overarching approach, we assessed the impact of register, age, and language contact.

In this talk, I will present the results of our work to date on concept lexicalization, clause types, subordination, and left dislocations. While some results show cross-linguistic influence from the heritage language to majority English, others show a general pattern across all groups of heritage speakers regardless of language background. Our results contribute to the understanding of the contact-linguistic status of non-canonical patterns in the majority English of heritage speakers, the sources of their development, and their position within speakers’ broader repertoires of languages and registers.

HL2C/SLLAT Seminar: Joe Kakitani (Lancaster), Effects of distributed practice on L2 speech fluency development

Our next HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday 26th January from 12 noon to 1pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London). This talk is a joint initiative with Lancaster’s SLLAT Research Group.


Joe Kakitani (Lancaster)


Effects of distributed practice on L2 speech fluency development

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


There has been a surge of interest in L2 research investigating how practice schedule can influence various aspects of L2 learning such as grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation (e.g., Kasprowicz, Marsden, & Sephton, 2019; Rogers & Cheung, 2018, 2020; Li & DeKeyser, 2019). Recent L2 distributed practice research has focused on oral fluency development—a dimension of L2 performance which hinges highly on L2 procedural knowledge (Kormos, 2006). Manipulating the timing of task repetitions has shown to affect the fluency of the repeated performance (Bui, Ahmadian, & Hunter, 2019), and the effects of practice schedule have been found to transfer to a performance on a novel task (Suzuki & Hanzawa, 2021). Research in cognitive psychology suggests that an ideal distribution of repeated practice rests on the ratio of the interval between practice sessions (i.e., the intersession interval; ISI) and the time gap between the final practice session and the time of testing (i.e., the retention interval; RI). However, no research to date has examined the effects of distributed practice on L2 oral fluency development by systematically manipulating the ISI–RI ratio. An investigation of specified ISI–RI ratios is necessary to gain a better understanding of distributed practice effects on L2 fluency development, and how the research findings from cognitive psychology can be applied to a rather complex skill of L2 speaking. The current study, thus, aimed to fill the research gap by examining the effects of distributed practice using the ISI–RI ratios of 10–30%, an optimal range suggested by cognitive psychology research (Rohrer & Pashler, 2007). To this end, 116 Japanese university students participated in an online experimental study. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups, which consisted of two experimental groups (a short-spaced group [1-day ISI] and a long-spaced group [7-day ISI]) and two control groups. The experimental groups engaged in four narrative-task practice sessions which were identical in terms of content and procedure, with the only difference lying in the distribution of the practice sessions (1 day vs. 7 days apart). The control groups, by contrast, only took the three tests (pretest, posttest, delayed posttest) which followed the same schedule as each corresponding experimental group. A total of 348 speech datasets were analyzed in terms of speed fluency (e.g., articulation rate), breakdown fluency (e.g., frequency and duration of mid-clause and clause-final pauses), and repair fluency (e.g., repetition). Linear mixed-effects modeling showed the advantage of the long-spaced practice over short-spaced practice in terms of breakdown fluency (e.g., mean length of mid-clause pauses) on the delayed posttest, demonstrating greater retention of enhanced fluency performance. The present findings contribute to the existing body of L2 research by yielding insights on how distributed practice may benefit the long-term development of L2 oral fluency.

Bui, G., Ahmadian, M. J., & Hunter, A.-M. (2019). Spacing effects on repeated L2 task performance. System, 81, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2018.12.006

Kasprowicz, R. E., Marsden, E., & Sephton, N. (2019). Investigating distribution of practice effects for the learning of foreign language verb morphology in the young learner classroom. The Modern Language Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12586

Kormos, J. (2006). Speech production and second language acquisition. New York: Routledge.

Li, M., & DeKeyser, R. (2019). Distribution of Practice Effects in the Acquisition and Retention of L2 Mandarin Tonal Word Production. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12580

Rogers, J., & Cheung, A. (2018). Input spacing and the learning of L2 vocabulary in a classroom context. Language Teaching Research, 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168818805251

Rogers, J., & Cheung, A. (2020). Does it matter when you review?: Input spacing, ecological validity, and the learning of L2 vocabulary. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263120000236

Rohrer, D., & Pashler, H. (2007). Increasing retention without increasing study time. Psychological Science, 16(4), 183–186. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00500.x

Suzuki, Y., & Hanzawa, K. (2021). Massed task repetition is a double-edged sword for fluency development: An ESL classroom study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 1(1), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263121000358

HL2C Seminar: Elma Kerz (Aachen), New insights into the role of statistical learning abilities in second language learning

Our next HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday 15th December from 12 noon to 1pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London). This talk is a joint initiative with Lancaster’s SLLAT Research Group.


Elma Kerz (Aachen)


New insights into the role of statistical learning abilities in second language learning

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


One of the major advances in the language sciences across theoretical orientations has been in recognizing that natural languages consist of complex, variable patterns occurring in sequence, and as such can be described in terms of statistical regularities or distributional properties among language units (Christiansen & Chater, 2016; Gibson, 2019). Learning a language thus heavily depends on figuring out these complex structured patterns inherent in the input and there is a growing recognition that such accumulated statistical knowledge constitutes an essential part of our language knowledge (Rebuschat, 2013; Ellis, 2019). This is supported by extensive empirical evidence from the literature on statistical learning (henceforth SL). SL is succinctly defined as a powerful mechanism for perceiving and assimilating the range of regularities in the input, thereby shaping fundamental aspects of human cognition and behavior (Armstrong et al., 2017; Sherman et al., 2020).

A number of previous studies based on within-subject designs have examined the relationship between individual differences in SL ability and variations in language learning and processing, in both child and adult populations and in adult second-language learner populations. The main assumption underlying these studies is that individuals can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ statistical learners, with the expectation that ‘good’ statistical learners will show better performance across a wide range of language domains and population groups, such as early language acquisition (Lany et al., 2018), word predictability (Kaufman et al. 2010), reading (Arciuli, 2018), processing of complex syntactic structures in children and adults (Kidd & Arciuli, 2017; Misyak & Christiansen, 2012) and online processing of multiword combinations in second-language learners (Kerz & Wiechmann, 2019). However, this assumption has recently been challenged and there is now increasing recognition of the need to consider a broader ecological perspective on the diversity of statistics that must be accommodated and the challenges associated with the theoretical construct of good statistical learners (Bogaerts et al., 2021).

In this talk, I will present my recent studies aimed at addressing this ecological perspective and advancing our understanding of the role of SL in language learning and processing. I will show how this line of research can benefit from synthesizing experimental studies based on within-subject designs with natural language processing and computational techniques (see Rebuschat et al. (2017) for background reading).

1 References

1. Armstrong, B. C., Frost, R., Christiansen, M. H. (2017). The long road of statistical learning research: Past, present and future.. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017;372(1711):20160047.

2. Arciuli, J. (2018). Reading as statistical learning. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49(3S), 634-643.

3. Bogaerts, L., Siegelman, N., Christiansen, M. H., & Frost, R. (2021). Is there such a thing as a ‘good statistical learner’?. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

4. Christiansen, M. H., & Chater, N. (2016). Creating language: Integrating evolution, acquisition, and processing. MIT Press.

5. Ellis, N. C. (2019). Essentials of a theory of language cognition. The Modern Language Journal, 103, 39-60.

6. Gibson, E., Futrell, R., Piandadosi, S. T., Dautriche, I., Mahowald, K., Bergen, L., & Levy, R. (2019). How efficiency shapes human language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 5. 389-407.

7. Kaufman, S. B., DeYoung, C. G., Gray, J. R., Jim´enez, L., Brown, J., & Mackintosh, N. (2010). Implicit learning as an ability. Cognition, 116(3), 321-340.

8. Kerz, E., & Wiechmann, D. (2019). Effects of statistical learning ability on the second language processing of multiword sequences. In International Conference on Computational and CorpusBased Phraseology (pp. 200-214). Springer, Cham.

9. Kidd, E., & Arciuli, J. (2016). Individual differences in statistical learning predict children’s comprehension of syntax. Child Development, 87(1), 184-193.

10. Lany, J., Shoaib, A., Thompson, A., & Estes, K. G. (2018). Infant statistical-learning ability is related to real-time language processing. Journal of child language, 45(2), 368-391.

11. Misyak, J. B., & Christiansen, M. H. (2012). Statistical learning and language: An individual differences study. Language Learning, 62(1), 302-331.

12. Rebuschat P (2013) Statistical learning. In: Robinson P (ed.) The Routledge encyclopedia of second language acquisition. London: Routledge, pp. 612–15.

13. Rebuschat, P. E., Detmar, M., & McEnery, T. (2017). Language learning research at the intersection of experimental, computational and corpus-based approaches. Language Learning, 67(S1), 6-13.

14. Sherman, B. E., Graves, K. N., & Turk-Browne, N. B. (2020). The prevalence and importance of statistical learning in human cognition and behavior. Current opinion in behavioral sciences, 32, 15-20.

Porto series of public lectures

The University of Porto is hosting a series of two public lectures as part of their Master’s Degree in Portuguese as a Second Language/Foreign Language, with the support of CLUP. The lectures focus on Portuguese and its relationship with other languages in CPLP countries. For more information, please contact Professor Isabel Margarida Duarte.

Session 1:

Date: 28th September

Presenter: Professor Karin Noemi Rühle Indart (National University of East Timor)

Title: A Oficialização da Língua Portuguesa em Timor-Leste e os Desafios de Implementação da Política Linguística no Sistema de Educação

Click on this link for more information

Session 2:

Date: 16th November

Presenter: Professor Liliana Inverno (University of Coimbra)

Title: Contacto linguístico e restruturação da gramática da língua portuguesa em Angola.

HL2C Seminar: Children using collaborative tasks in an EFL context

We are delighted to host the next talk as part of the  HL2C Seminar Series for 2021-2022 , taking place on Wednesday 27th October, 12 noon to 1pm UK (same time zone as Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London).


María del Pilar García Mayo (University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU)


Children using collaborative tasks in an EFL context. Some insights from research

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


The early learning of English in school settings has grown tremendously in the past twenty years, with estimated figures of half a billion primary-aged children around the world (Ellis & Knagg, 2013; Enever, 2018). Considering this trend it seems striking that the research lens has only recently been placed on young learners (Enever & Lindgren, 2018; García Mayo, 2017; Murphy & Evangelou, 2016; Pinter, 2011), as child second language acquisition (SLA) differs significantly from adult SLA and deserves to be studied in its own right (Oliver & Azkarai, 2017). In the last decade, task-based language teaching (TBLT) research has expanded substantially in foreign language contexts, but most research studies have been carried out with adults in university settings. There is a clear lack of research-based evidence of what children actually do while performing tasks in this setting and about their learning process. This evidence is crucial in order to make decisions about appropriate educational provision, to inform policy makers and to maximize children’s learning opportunities (García Mayo, 2017, 2018).

In this talk I will focus on current research with Spanish English as a foreign language (EFL) children (age range 8-12) while they perform several collaborative tasks (oral and oral+written) in both mainstream and Content and Language integrated learning (CLIL) contexts. I will show how children are able to negotiate for meaning with age- and proficiency-matched peers and to focus on formal aspects of the language without the teacher’s intervention. Issues related to the impact of task modality on language-related episodes and of task repetition on collaborative patterns and L1 use will also be considered, together with the importance of agency in pair formation. I will conclude by highlighting both ethical and methodological challenges in this type of research (García Mayo, 2021) and by pointing to interesting topics in the future research agenda.


HL2C Seminar: Aida Cardoso (Lisbon), Acquisition of infinitival constructions in L2 Portuguese

Our next HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday, November 17 from 12pm to 1pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London). This talk is a joint initiative with Lancaster’s SLLAT Research Group.


Aida Cardoso (Lisbon)


Acquisition of infinitival constructions in L2 Portuguese by Spanish native speakers: A Feature Reassembly approach

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


This talk discusses the acquisition of the Prepositional Infinitival Construction (PIC) as a complement of perception verbs by Spanish learners of European Portuguese (EP).

In Romance languages, the PIC (1) and the Gerund Construction (GC) (2) tend to occur in complementary distribution (Casalicchio, 2019). This is the case in EP and Spanish: Only the PIC is available (in the standard variety) in EP, whereas only the GC is available in Spanish. What is more, both languages make available other infinitival constructions that can also occur as complements of perception verbs (e.g., ECM).


O professor viu-os a ler a gramática.

the teacher saw-CL.ACC to.ASP read.INF the grammar

“The teacher saw them reading the grammar.”


O professor viu-os a lerem a gramática.

the teacher saw-CL.ACC to.ASP read.INF.3PL the grammar

“The teacher saw them reading the grammar.”


Vi a Juan conduciendo una furgoneta blanca.

saw.1SG A Juan driving.GER a van white

“I saw Juan driving a white van.”

[Rafel 1999: 202 (44a)]

Crucially, the PIC and the GC share semantic and syntactic properties (both being analysed as small clauses): They both have a progressive aspectual value, and they are traditionally analysed as small clauses (Raposo, 1989; Rafel, 2000; Barbosa & Cochofel, 2005; Casalicchio, 2019). However, the progressive aspectual value has different morphological counterparts in both languages. In Spanish, it corresponds to a Gerund verb form and in EP to an aspectual head (the preposition a, ‘to’) plus an inflected or uninflected infinitival verb form (Duarte, 1992).

Following the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (Lardiere, 2008, 2009), we predict that Spanish learners will have difficulties reassembling the aspectual features of the GC into the ones of the PIC due to difficulties identifying the contrasts in the respective morphological counterparts. Furthermore, we hypothesise that Spanish learners will perform better considering the PIC with uninflected infinitive than with inflected infinitive since Spanish does not make available complements with inflected infinitives, and consequently, the acquisition of such structures entails a feature addition task (namely, ɸ-features).

Three experimental tasks were designed in order to collect complementary data on the acquisition of the PIC: an acceptability judgment task (AJT), a sentence completion task (SCT) and a forced choice task (FCT). For each task, we tested a control group of monolingual EP speakers and three groups of adult Spanish learners of EP (formal instruction context) with distinct levels of proficiency: initial, intermediate, and advanced. In the AJT, we compared the acceptability rates of PIC with inflected and uninflected infinitive; in the SCT, the preference rates of the inflected and uninflected infinitive PIC with another infinitival complement only available in EP: the Inflected Infinitive structure; and, in the FCT, the preference rates of the inflected infinitive PIC with a non-standard structure (Accusative subject plus inflected infinitive) with similarities to the Exceptional Case Marking (ECM), a structure available in both languages.

The data from the three tasks show that Spanish learners struggle with PIC even in advanced levels of proficiency. Overall, we found statistically significant differences between the control group and all test groups (p<.05), indicating a lower acceptance rate of PIC by the latter. The AJT and the SCT show that Spanish learners prefer PIC with uninflected infinitives.

Furthermore, the FCT shows that all L2 groups tend to reject PIC with inflected infinitive in favour of the non-standard structure closer to ECM (a complement structure available both in the L1 and the L2). Additionally, in the corrections provided in the AJT, Spanish learners do not replace PIC by GC, but mainly by instances of ECM. We hypothesise that this difficulty in acquiring the PIC may result from a difficulty in reassembling the relevant features and from an L1 pre- emption effect (Iverson & Rothman, 2014): Spanish learners may unconsciously deem the properties of the ECM structure of their L1 as sufficient to account for the EP input.


Barbosa, P. & F. Cochofel (2005). A construção de infinitivo preposicionado em PE. In I. Duarte & I. Leiria (orgs.), Actas do XX Encontro Nacional da Associação Portuguesa de Linguística. Lisboa: APL/Edições Colibri, 387-400.

Casalicchio, J. (2019). Gerunds become prepositional infinitives in Romance Small Clauses: the effects of later Merge to the syntactic spine. Probus 31 (1), 75-117.

Duarte, I. (1992). Complementos Infinitivos Preposicionados e Outras Construções Temporalmente Defectivas em Português Europeu. In Actas do VIII ENAPL. Lisboa: Colibri.

Iverson, M. & Rothman, J. (2014). Object drop in L2 Spanish, (complex) feature reassembly and L1 pre-emption. In: Judy, T. & Perpiñán, S. (eds.) The Acquisition of Spanish anish in Understudied Language Pairings. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Lardiere, D. (2008). Feature-Assembly in Second Language Acquisition. In J. Liceras, H. Zobl & H. Goodluck (eds.), The role of formal features in second language acquisition. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lardiere, D. (2009). Some thoughts on the contrastive analysis of features in second language acquisition. Second Language Research 25(2), 173-227.

Rafel, J. (1999). Complex Small Clauses. PhD Dissertation. UAB.

Raposo, E. P. (1989). Prepositional infinitival constructions in European Portuguese. In O. Jaegli & K.J. Safir (eds.), The Null Subject Parameter. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

HL2C Seminar: Gabriela Tavares (NOVA), Phonological categorization of L2 Portuguese

Our next HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday, October 20 from 12pm to 1pm UK time (same as Lisbon). This talk is a joint initiative with Lancaster’s SLLAT Research Group.


Gabriela Tavares (NOVA University Lisbon), Andrea Deme (Hungarian Academy of Sciences & Eötvös Loránd University), and Susana Correia (NOVA University Lisbon)


Phonological categorization of L2 Portuguese by Hungarian native speakers

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


Empirical observations in the classroom suggest that Hungarian learners of L2 European Portuguese (EP) have difficulties acquiring variable stress and vowel reduction – in particular the two EP reduced vowels [ɐ] and [ɨ] – since these are absent in the Hungarian phonological system [1]. These features are essential from an intelligibility perspective, since in EP stress is variable and lexically contrastive [2] and vowel reduction is found to be the main clue for stress perception in this language [3].

In this talk, we will present results of the first experiment of a larger project that seeks to develop pedagogical interventions that facilitate the acquisition of L2 Portuguese phonology. In this first step, we developed and empirically validated a forced-choice identification task to map the categorization of the EP oral vowels by Hungarian speakers in their native phonological system.

This presentation will report the results of this forced-choice identification task. Forty-six Hungarian native speakers (age range 18 to 45) took part in this experiment. One group (n=32) had no experience in learning EP; the other group (n = 14) consisted of learners of EP with approximately two semesters of language classes (n=14). A group with native Portuguese speakers with no previous contact with Hungarian (n=30) served as our baseline condition. Participants completed a forced- choice identification task that required them to identify different auditory tokens of the nine EP oral vowels, inserted in a [ɡV] context, among a set of real Hungarian words with a [ɡV]CV structure, presented orthographically in a grid.

We predicted that the ability of Hungarian native speakers to identify and discriminate contrastive EP sounds would depend on the phonetic proximity of EP vowels with Hungarian sounds [4, 5, 6]. Accordingly, we hypothesized that these speakers would categorize the unstressed vowel [ɐ] into /ɛ/, /eː/ or /ø/, and [ɨ] into /y/ or /ø/, as these are the closest L1 categories to the L2 vowels. We also expected some differences to occur after exposure to the target-language, and that these differences would be reflected in the categorization results. Results have partly confirmed the expectations, as [ɐ] was categorized into /ɛ/, but not into /eː/, and [ɨ] was categorized into /y/ and /ø/. A comparison of data in the two experimental groups suggests a learning effect for [ɨ], but not for [ɐ].

The data collected in this experiment shows overlapping situations in contrasts with [ɐ] and [ɨ]. According to the results, Hungarian speakers identify both non-native [ɐ] and [ɨ] into the single native category /ɛ/, which possibly causes discrimination difficulties [4]. As for [ɨ], considering that this segment is identified as a separated Hungarian category – /y/ or /ø/ –, discrimination of contrasts with this vowel won’t be problematic [4].

According to the above mentioned, an auditory perceptual training focused on tuning [ɐ] into a new category, separating it from /ɛ/, is expected to improve Hungarian speakers’ ability to perceive better this EP vowel. To test this hypothesis, we are currently designing a sequence of oddity discrimination tasks focused on the overlapping situations mentioned above. This perceptual training will be followed by Hungarian learners of L2 Portuguese within a 5-week timeframe.

[1] Markó A. (2017). Hangtan. In A. Imrényi, N. Kugler, M. Ladányi, A. Markó, Sz. Tátrai, & G. Tolcsvai Nagy (Eds). Nyelvtan (pp. 75–206). Budapest: Osiris Kiadó.

[2] Raposo, E., Nascimento, M. F., Mota, M. A., Segura, L., Mendes, A., & A. Andrade (Eds.) (2020). Gramática do Português. Vol. III. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.

[3] Correia, S., Butler, J., Vigário, M. & S. Frota (2015). A stress “deafness” effect in European Portuguese. Language and Speech 58(1): 48–67.

[4] Best, C. T. (1995). A direct-realist view of cross-language perception. In W. Strange (Ed.). Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp. 171–204). Baltimore: York Press.

[5] Flege, J. E. (2003). Assessing constraints on second-language segmental production and perception. In N. O. Schiller & A. S. Meyer (Eds.). Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production: Differences and Similarities (pp. 319–355). Berlin: De Gruyter.

[6] Escudero, P. (2015). Linguistic Perception and Second Language Acquisition: Explaining the Attainment of Optimal Phonological Categorization. [Doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University, LOT Dissertation Series 113]. Repository: http://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/7349.

HL2C Seminar: Luiz Amaral (Amherst), Evaluating heritage speakers’ proficiency

We are delighted to kick off our HL2C Seminar Series for 2021-2022 on Thursday, September 30 from 3pm to 4pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London).


Luiz Amaral (UMass Amherst), Alexandre Alves dos Santos (UMass Amherst), Flávia Cunha (Mt. Holyoke College), Thaís de Sá (UFMG), and Ricardo de Souza (UFMG)


Evaluating Heritage Speakers’ Proficiency: Oral Proficiency Rubrics and a Vocabulary Test for Portuguese as a Heritage Language

How to join:

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Despite the increasing interest in heritage language (HL) acquisition and education, the area of HL assessment remains one of the least explored in the field. Several controversial issues seem to impact projects whose goals are to assess the language proficiency of HL speakers (HS). Some arise primarily from the reuse and/or adaptation of assessment tools originally created for L1 or L2 speakers (Kagan and Dillan, 2008; Draper and Hicks, 2000; Valdes, 1989). Others come from the perceived gap in the development of HL modalities, i.e., written proficiency might in some instances lag oral proficiency (Gatti and Grave, 2020). Some studies have explored and, in some cases, challenged these paradigms (Kagan and Friedman, 2003; Martin et.al., 2013), but there is still much to be done to understand the linguistic development of HS and to create the assessment tools needed by language programs.

With these needs in mind, our research group started a series of projects to study HL assessment looking into different language modalities and properties. In this presentation we describe two of our latest projects on (i) the creation of oral proficiency rubrics, and (ii) the development a computer-based vocabulary language test. The goal of the first effort is to compare two rubrics to evaluate oral production by HS. The first rubric is exclusively functional and evaluates how well participants performed each of the communicative tasks proposed. The second rubric in more comprehensive, including descriptors for vocabulary, grammatical accuracy, pronunciation, and communicative competence. We used the two rubrics to assess the production of 20 HS that participated in an oral interview based on different everyday topics. We show the results obtained by using these two different sets of criteria and discuss the implications for each one. The second project is centered on the development of a computer-based VLT for Portuguese as L2 and HL – Teste de Verificação Lexical do Português Brasileiro (TVLPB). This project is a collaboration with colleagues from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. After explaining how the test was created, we compare the vocabulary test scores with the scores from the oral interview from the same group of participants cited above. This is a first attempt to validate the TVLPB and see how vocabulary measures compare to other types of language assessment tools in heritage populations.

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