A quick vocabulary test for dialect proficiency in Sicilian



It has been increasingly acknowledged that regional languages and dialects bear similarities with heritage languages, and that some heritage speakers are bilectal with two closely related minority languages or dialects. However, assessing the knowledge of non-standard varieties proves difficult due to the lack of assessment materials. Our contribution documents the creation and validation of LexSIC, a yes/no vocabulary task, a placement test for speakers with receptive and/or productive skills in Sicilian. The materials are freely available. The vocabulary items were validated in a survey with 100 speakers of Italian, who had varying levels of proficiency in Sicilian, including bilectal heritage speakers in Germany. We have relied on Classical Test Theory (CTT) and Item Response Theory (IRT) in validating test items and we demonstrate and discuss correlations with self-reported measures of proficiency, language use, age and education. A comparison of vocabulary proficiency in bilectals with Italian and Sicilian proficiency further shows that the two are highly correlated, which underlines a cumulative enhancement of vocabulary proficiency in bilectals. We discuss the challenges in creating assessment materials in minority languages and dialects.


Sicilian, bilectalism, heritage speakers, vocabulary, assessment


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