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Predicting the Development of Case Marking Paradigms in Heritage German?

Friederike Zahn

University of Cologne

To this day, research on heritage languages still predominantly assumes a deficit perspective. Within this notion, differential morphosyntactic structures observed in heritage grammars are considered the outcome of so-called simplification processes. Especially case marking in Heritage German (HG) is often described to exhibit case loss. It is considered the outcome of a shift in language dominance and cross-linguistic influence (CLI), and, as such, argued to display a reduction of the morphologically complex case marking paradigm of Standard German (SG).

Based on claims of emerging DOM patterns in different varieties of HG in the Americas (Yager et al. 2015), this study assumes a different perspective and explores corpus data from different varieties of HG in Australia, Namibia, and Israel. An in-depth analysis of syntactic environments which exclusively licence dative case marking in SG reveals syntactic and semantic cues which support the claim of a systematic language-internal re-analysis of the case marking paradigm in HG. Further correlating these linguistic cues with the extra-linguistic factors available permits to retrace the steps of re-analysis and, in turn, make predictions about the development of (other) morphological paradigms.