Syllabus: Spring 2011

Course Overview

Heritage speakers are those who grew up hearing (and usually speaking) a language at home which is different from the language of the community at large. Their chronologically first (heritage) language is not their dominant language. We will take a closer look at the rich and systematic, though often underappreciated, knowledge that heritage language speakers have about the sounds, words, and many other aspects of their heritage language. We will review theoretical, sociological, experimental, and pedagogical studies, and discuss the differences and similarities between the experiences of heritage speakers from different backgrounds.

Overview of topics TENTATIVE

Part One: Introducing the issues and perspectives
1.Critical/special periods in first and second language acquisition
2.Bilingualism and contact languages: sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic perspectives

Part Two: Heritage speakers and their communities
1.Immigrant communities and their languages: sociocultural background and motivation
2.Indigenous communities and their languages: sociocultural background and motivation

Part Three: Heritage speakers and their speech
Theoretical, corpus linguistics, experimental psycholinguistic, and sociolinguistic studies of heritage languages

Part Four: Heritage speakers: adventures in relearning
Heritage speakers studying their heritage language in the classroom

Wrapping up and Mini-Conference: students present their term projects

Tuesday & Friday 1:40 - 3:00
NOTE CHANGE! Location:
Volen 106
This is a reading-and-discussion based course, with a strong experiential component. We will read overview and research papers in the field, present and discuss them in class. Then, we will apply the insights from the readings to analysing actual data in a heritage language, both together, and through individual student projects.


Sophia A. Malamud
Office: Volen 137
Office Hours: Tuesday & Friday: 12:30 - 1:30
OR email me for appointment


Your grade for this class will be a linear combination of class participation (which includes being in class on time, and discussing assigned readings), a midterm quiz and a final quiz, several written reports, and in-class presentations. The weights are as follows:

Class Participation: 20%
Two quizzes 10% ea
Written Reports: 40%
Presentations: 20%


Additional information

Throughout the semester, we will use this website to make any course announcements and update the schedule, so please check in frequently. There is also a latte page for this course that you can access by logging in at You must be officially registered for the course in order to access the latte page. Course readings and Handouts will be posted through latte.

If you are a student with a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see the professor immediately. Retroactive accommodation cannot be provided.