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"Global Accent in the Portuguese Speech of Heritage Returnees"

Cristina Flores, Anabela Rato

The Heritage Language Journal, 13 (2), 2016

The present study examined whether heritage speakers (HSs) of European Portuguese (EP) who were born or moved to a German-speaking country before the age of eight years were perceived as native speakers of EP. In particular, this study intended to determine whether a change of linguistic environment, length of residence in a migrant context, length of residence in the country of origin before migration and after remigration, and age at return could predict the degree of (non)native accent in the heritage language. Thirty native Portuguese speakers assessed the global accent of 20 Portuguese-German bilinguals, five Portuguese monolinguals and five highly proficient German speakers of Portuguese as a second language (L2). The group of HSs comprised 17 speakers who returned to Portugal. The results revealed that listeners perceived a strong global foreign accent in the speech of the L2 learners, while the monolingual Portuguese speakers were clearly perceived as being native speakers of EP. The HSs’ ratings were considerably closer to the monolingual average ratings, but they showed more variation, indicating that their accent may bear non-native traces. Further analyses showed that the age at which the HSs emigrated was the only significant predictor, while length of residence in the host country and in Portugal were less predictive.

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