Russian-as-a-heritage-language vocabulary acquisition by bi-/multilingual children in Canada


The significance of this paper is in its contribution to the innovative and rapidly developing research area of Russian as a heritage language (RHL) around the world. The purpose of the reported study is to explore Russian vocabulary development by bi-/multilingual children acquiring Russian as a heritage language in Canada. The materials come from vocabulary development and non-canonical lexical forms (NCF, earlier known as “errors”) in the speech of 29 bi-/multilingual children (between the ages of 5 and 6) from immigrant families in Saskatchewan, Canada (RHL group) as well as of 13 monolinguals from Russia (MR group). The study employs a method of a comparative analysis of vocabulary in picture-prompted narratives by children from the above two groups. The results demonstrate that bi-/multilingual RHL speaking children produced significantly more lexical NCFs as compared to their monolingual peers (MR), whereas narrative length in words, speech rate in wpm and vocabulary size did not differ across the two groups. Most NCFs in the RHL sample related to the use of verbs, followed by NCFs in the use of nouns. Unlike the speech of MR speakers, RHL participants’ language use exhibits some slight impact of dialectal forms, a few borrowings from English and code-switches to English. The study has applications for the theory of bi-/multilingualism as well as for teaching RHL to children of immigrants in North American and other contexts.

About the authors

Veronika Makarova

University of Saskatchewan

Author for correspondence.

Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Saskatchewan. She previously worked in universities of Japan, Russia, and UK. Her research studies have resulted in four edited books, one monograph, and over 100 published academic papers. She has received three grants from Canadian Government Funding Agency (SSHRC) and multiple international grants. Research interests: linguistics, applied linguistics, discourse analysis, heritage language studies, bilingualism/multilingualism, sociolinguistics and ethnic studies.

914 9 Campus Dr, Arts Building, Saskatoon, S7N 5A5, Saskatchewan, Canada

Natalia Terekhova

Options Community Services


graduated with a BA in English and Literature from Kemerovo State University (Russia) and then pursued MA in Linguistics at the University of Saskatchewan with a research focus on language maintenance in bilinguals (completed in 2016). Upon graduation, coordinated translation and interpretation services for immigrants, she currently works with youth as a job developer for Options Community Services (OCS) and volunteers on the executive committee of the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council. Research interests: bilingualism, multilingualism, translation

9815 140th St, Surrey, V3T 4M4, British Columbia, Canada


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