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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Hispanic Literatures & Linguistics

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Patricia Gubitosi

Subject Categories

Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature


A Heritage Speaker (HS) has traditionally been defined as someone who grew up in a place where the language spoken by the general population (a.k.a. the dominant language) is different from the language spoken at home by their family (a.k.a. the heritage language). Though there are many variations on the definition of a HS, data from a variety of disciplines, from education to sociolinguistics and language acquisition, seem to agree on the fact that HSs are extremely heterogeneous as a group when it comes to their level of proficiency in the heritage language. This study contributes to this question by examining some potential correlations between heritage language learning and the speakers' attitudes and cultural practices. It focuses on an understudied heritage population in the US: Brazilian Portuguese HS. Language proficiency is measured in two ways: through a self-assessment questionnaire, and independently assessed by two graders using an oral interview. Language attitudes are elicited using a questionnaire and follow-up questions during an interview. The attitudes measured are divided into positive and negative attitudes, and the statements focus on issues related to three topics: (i) the heritage language itself, (ii) immigration, and (iii) bilingualism and biculturalism. Cultural practices are defined as activities in which heritage speakers participate that allow them to engage with their heritage culture, and are elicited by another specific questionnaire. The results of the study are presented in two distinct chapters, one dealing with the quantitative analysis based on the hypotheses about possible correlations between language proficiency, language attitudes and cultural practices, and another one dealing with qualitative findings based on the participants' answers. Overall, the data show a statistically observable correlation between negative attitudes and language proficiency, while positive attitudes and cultural practices do not seem to correlate to the participants' knowledge of the heritage languages. Moreover, the qualitative data indicate a more nuanced picture, where specific characteristics from participants' lives and experiences intertwine with their language development and achievement.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.