First Heritage Language Research Institute

Developing a Research Base for the Heritage Field


July 29 - August 2, 2007
University of California, Davis


The cornerstone project for the National Heritage Language Resource Center is an annual research institute, created to support the center's principal mission of establishing a research base for heritage language education. The first institute was held in the summer of 2007, at UC Davis, the home campus of the UC Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching, which co-hosted the institute with NHLRC.

Institute director Maria Polinsky, a Harvard linguist, described the institute as an opportunity for language educators and linguists to "claim joint custody" of topics central to heritage language research. Presenters discussed research in progress, offering evidence from a spectrum of languages and cultures.

Presenters spoke on:

  • Heritage Languages and their Speakers (Maria Polinsky)
  • Spanish Object Expression under Incomplete Acquisition (Silvina Montrul)
  • Bilingual Past Project (Silvina Montrul)
  • Experimental Methods in HL Studies (Tania Ionin/Silvina Montrul)
  • Diglossia and Arabic Language Learning with a Profile of Arabic Heritage Language Speakers in the U.S. (Elabbas Benmamoun)
  • NHLRC Survey of College-Level Heritage Language Learners (Olga Kagan and Maria Carreira)
  • A Systematic Functional Approach to the Teaching of Heritage Languages in the United States (Maria Cecilia Colombi)

Focused, structured discussions contributed to shaping ongoing research, provoking research questions and seeding new collaborations, to enrich the understanding of heritage studies as a field distinct from second language acquisition. The institute culminated in presentations of ideas for research projects to be initiated and submitted to the UC Language Consortium for funding in the coming year.

A grant from the UC Humanities Research Institute helped bring a number of UC faculty to the institute.