Article Title

Heritage Language Learners and Automaticity: The Use of "por" and "para"

Short Title

Heritage Language Learners and Automaticity


The purpose of this study is to investigate the use of the Spanish prepositions por and para (P&P) by heritage-language (HL) learners to analyze whether they demonstrate automaticity in their application, as is common with L1 Spanish speakers (i.e. “it just sounds right”), or if they rely on the conscious, declarative knowledge of the prescriptive uses of these prepositions, as is common with speakers for whom Spanish is an L2. Upper and lower HL learners and upper and lower FL learners (non-HL learners) were asked to complete a cloze test and a grammaticality judgment task and were asked to explain their judgments. The explanations given by students provide a glimpse into the type of knowledge, whether declarative or procedural, that students tap into when using P&P. This study found that while FL learners relied on declarative knowledge in the application of P&P, HL learners demonstrated a level of automaticity and procedural knowledge in their use of these prepositions. This suggests that HL learners have internalized the uses of P&P though communicative exposure throughout their childhood, which may be more effective than the explicit instruction FL learners have received on these structures. This study aims to add to the growing body of literature on heritage language processes and development.

Keywords/Palabras clave

heritage learners, L2 learners, SLA, declarative vs. procedural, por and para

Subject Area/Área temática

SLA, heritage language acquisition

Publication Date/Fecha de publicación


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