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Multi-competence and first language attrition

Seton, B and Schmid, MS (2016) 'Multi-competence and first language attrition.' In: UNSPECIFIED, (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Multi-Competence. UNSPECIFIED, 338 - 354. ISBN 9781107059214

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Introduction The multi-competence approach views bilingual development as a wholistic process that impacts not only on the linguistic system which is being acquired but on other languages that are already established in the mind/brain (Cook 2012). This perspective implies that the process commonly referred to as first language attrition - the changes to linguistic skills or language proficiency under conditions of reduced use - should be seen as an essential component of this wider picture. The assumption that bilingual development ‘involves the whole mind of the speaker, not simply their first language (L1) or their second’ (Cook 2012, p. 3768) puts developments and changes which occur in the first language while another is being learned or used on an equal footing with the development of the language that is being acquired. This status of processes of change in the first language, however, is not reflected in present-day linguistic research, with investigations of and insights into L1 attrition still lagging far behind the multitude of studies of second language (L2) development. The present contribution will give an overview of research in the field of first language attrition in a migration setting, and try to integrate those findings into the overall multi-competence framework. We would like to point out that, despite the fact that the term attrition is often perceived to imply negative connotations or collocations (cf. war of attrition), we do not use it here with any evaluative implication. On the contrary, in the same way that multi-competence approaches aim to consider L2 users in their own right and deny a special status to the native speaker on the assumption that ‘it is the users’ own language that matters’ (Cook 2012, p. 1), the variety used by the attriter is not to be seen as inferior, reduced or deteriorated: it is simply a system which coexists in the mind/brain, and thus within a larger ‘language supersystem’ with another (possibly dominant) language. We thus feel that, while the original label attrition may have been somewhat unfortunately and inappropriately chosen, it has become such an established term in the intervening years (with more than 5,000 hits on Google Scholar) that it would be counterproductive to change the nomenclature at this point.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Users 161 not found.
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2016 15:30
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2021 23:15

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