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First language attrition and reversion among older migrants

Schmid, MS and Keijzer, M (2009) 'First language attrition and reversion among older migrants.' International Journal of the Sociology of Language (200). 83 - 101. ISSN 0165-2516

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Abstract

Emigration usually requires speakers to become bilingual, and eventually they may even become dominant in their second language. This can lead to a gradual loss of proficiency in the first language, a phenomenon referred to as first language attrition. As migrants become elderly, however, they sometimes report a "reversion" in language dominance, whereby the second language, which they have used in their daily lives for years or decades, recedes and the first language becomes stronger again. There are largely anecdotal cases of communication between such speakers and their children who were not brought up to speak their parents' first language becoming impossible. It is, however, very difficult to separate fact from fiction in such reports. This article will give an overview of changes in lexical access and fluency in the first language of adult migrants. It will assess simplistic predictions for a linear development of first and second languages against a more complex perspective which takes into account psycholinguistic aspects of activation, inhibition, and cognitive ageing. The predictions made on this basis will be tested on a large-scale quantitative investigation of language proficiency among migrants of German and Dutch descent in the Netherlands and Canada. © 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 15 May 2015 11:47
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 16:21
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/13778

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