New perspectives on grammatical change in heritage Norwegian

Introducing the adult speaker and adolescent relearner


  • Alexander K. Lykke Østfold University College
  • Arnstein Hjelde Østfold University College



grammatical change, heritage relearning, balanced bilingualism, speaker demographics, heritage language exposure


This study introduces two speaker types, which have not yet been studied, to the study of heritage Norwegian: one adult (48, i.e., not elderly) and one adolescent speaker (16), “Kari” and “Jess”. They are both North American, English-dominant heritage speakers of Norwegian (AmNo), but differ from an older, previously studied cohort of American Norwegian speakers (old AmNo) in several respects. Kari and Jess have had more continuous contact with Norway throughout their lives. They are both Norwegian-literate and consume Norwegian-language media. Jess has attended Norwegian language courses in Norway, which motivates seeing her as a heritage language relearner. In this pilot study, we test the hypothesis that such extra-linguistic factors lead to grammatical differences between the groups. The hypothesis is tested by the analysis of three variables previously studied in old AmNo speakers: verb-second word order in non-subject initial clauses, possessive placement, and grammatical gender. We drew data from a 48-minute semi-structured speech recording. The study found that Kari and Jess indeed differ from old AmNo speakers. Kari’s language shows very little grammatical innovation, placing her among the most stable AmNo speakers. Jess’ language, in contrast, shows strongly innovative tendencies in all studied variables. To explain the innovations in Jess’ language, we appeal to heterogeneous input during childhood acquisition and cross-linguistic influence from English. Both factors, we argue, are active in the process of heritage language relearning.




How to Cite

Lykke , Alexander K., and Arnstein Hjelde. 2022. “New Perspectives on Grammatical Change in Heritage Norwegian: Introducing the Adult Speaker and Adolescent Relearner”. Bergen Language and Linguistics Studies 12 (2):63-76.