ABSTRACT

Complexity, along with accuracy and fluency, is one of the dimensions that are primarily used to measure one's language proficiency level (Larsen-Freeman, 2006). As heritage language learners tend to speak the language in home and community environments only, they have relatively limited exposure to a more advanced, elaborate language. This study aims to investigate how Korean-American school-aged children use the Korean grammatical items related to syntactic complexity based on their writing samples to draw its implications on language education for Korean heritage learners. Using a revised form of the frequency analysis method (Ellis, 1994), 407 writing samples of heritage language learners at different proficiency levels in the United States and 40 samples of native Korean speakers in South Korea were analyzed. The results showed that the use of related grammatical items of heritage language learners dramatically changed over time, showing the dynamics of language development. However, compared to native Korean speakers, the range of grammatical items which frequently appeared in Korean-American heritage learners writing samples was distinctly limited to those mostly used in oral communication. Implications for Korean education as a heritage language are discussed.

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