A heritage language is defined as a minority language that differs from the dominant language used in a particular community. Codas (children of Deaf adults) who sign but may be dominant in the spoken language of their community present an interesting case due to the added difference of a spoken/signed modality in their linguistic repertoire. The relatively new field of research on heritage sign languages builds on our knowledge of the phenomena at play when both the heritage language (HL) and the community language use a spoken modality (e.g., varying degrees of proficiency in the HL, interference by the community language on the HL). It also addresses issues specific to bilinguals who balance their use of signed and spoken language by blending, for example (i.e., they simultaneously sign and speak rather than code-switch). One crucial aspect of the study of heritage language is the assessment of its production. This can be carried out by using cloze tests or eliciting narratives (using picture books or silent video clips as prompts) and then determining the rate of speech or the number of errors. Methods are also being developed to assess comprehension and perception in signed languages. The study of heritage sign languages promises to provide new insights into strong tendencies already established in heritage spoken languages (e.g., speakers' difficulty with optionality and ambiguity; speakers' command of verbs in their heritage language, which exceeds their grasp of nouns).


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pp. 412-428
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