Twelfth Heritage Language Research Institute

Complexity in Heritage Grammars


June 8-11, 2020
Pennsylvania State University


Complexity in Heritage Grammars

Director: Maria Polinsky, (University of Maryland, College Park)

Organizer: Michael Putnam (Penn State University)

One of the most prevalent misconceptions that exist concerning the nature of the languages spoken by heritage speakers is that they are notably ‘simpler’ and ‘less complex’ when compared with monolingual grammars. Such a view of heritage languages and their speakers can, and does, have a detrimental effect on the public perception of heritage bilingualism, pedagogical initiatives and curriculum development, as well as the development and advancement of theoretical and experimental studies of these grammars.

The topic of this year’s NHLRC Institute seeks to address the notion of complexity in heritage languages, with a primary focus on complex phenomena in heritage grammars and the preservation of complexity in heritage languages in the classroom and 'in the wild'. We welcome abstracts for presentations and posters that address the following overarching questions:

  • How can complexity in particular domains of heritage grammars (e.g., phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, etc.) be defined and measured? What role does some notion of ‘complexity’ play in the acquisition and development of heritage language grammars? How might this differ from other bi/multilingual populations?
  • What additional extra-linguistic factors (e.g., cognitive aging, socioeconomic status, bilingual mode, reduction in sociolinguistic domains of usage) contribute to the maintenance or attrition of heritage languages?
  • How can complexity in heritage language grammars be promoted and further developed in naturalistic and classroom settings?
  • How do complex representations in heritage language grammars interact with real-time processing demands?

This year's Heritage Language Research Institute will feature presentations by several researchers, discussion sessions, and poster sessions. The Institute will give equal time to pedagogical and theoretical-linguistic approaches to heritage languages and will actively seek new ways to coordinate these two approaches.


The institute will also host a workshop. More details will follow.

Registration Prices

$129 - Attend only the Institute

$159 - Attend both the Institute and Workshop

$75 - Attend only the Workshop