Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Stephanie Lindemann

Second Advisor

Diane Belcher

Third Advisor

Eric Friginal

Fourth Advisor

Steven Black


This study examines the experiences and ideologies of heritage language speakers in the United States who have shouldered the responsibility of interpreting and translating for their families since childhood. These “language brokers” (Tse, 1995) are often “circumstantial bilinguals” (Valdés & Figueroa, 1994) who have maintained their heritage language out of necessity in order to interpret and translate for their parents. Many of these heritage speakers continue their roles as language brokers as adults (Del Torto, 2008), interpreting and translating for their families in increasingly complex situations as their parents age. However, despite the complexities of these language brokering (LB) interactions and the value that they bring for those involved, there remains a deficit view of heritage speakers, whose heritage language proficiency is often assessed negatively against ideal native speaker standards (cf. Benmamoun, Montrul, & Polinsky, 2013b).

Building on recent studies of adult language brokers (e.g. Guan, Nash, & Orellana, 2016; Sherman & Homoláč, 2017), I explore the LB experiences of heritage speakers living in the United States through the frameworks of translanguaging (García, 2009a; García & Li, 2013) and resemiotization (Iedema, 2001, 2003). Using a sequential transformative mixed-methods design (Creswell et al., 2003), I surveyed and interviewed adult heritage speakers across the United States about their LB experiences during childhood and adulthood. I also video recorded authentic LB interactions for linguistic and semiotic analysis using myself as a researcher-participant. Findings indicate that heritage speakers perceived language brokering as a normal part of their lives with functions that go beyond mediating communication. Most participants attributed their heritage language maintenance to their LB experiences, but they also expressed a deficit view of their heritage language proficiency. While almost all participants identified themselves as native English speakers, they felt ambivalent about identifying themselves as native speakers of their heritage language. This ambivalence stems from how heritage speakers compared their heritage language proficiency to their own English proficiency and imagined native speaker standards. Implications from these findings suggest the prevalence of standard language ideology (Lippi-Green, 1994, 2012) among heritage speakers, whose LB experiences simultaneously challenge and perpetuate deficit ideologies of heritage speakers.


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