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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents and analyses main factors that contribute to attrition in heritage languages. It shows that heritage speakers are a highly heterogeneous population from both a psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic point of view. In principle, their language can differ from the language of their input (baseline language, usually that of first-generation immigrants to a new country). The differences can be due to how the heritage language developed under reduced input conditions, interference from the dominant language (transfer) and innovations in the grammar, potential changes incipient in the input, and attrition proper. The latter is particularly apparent when the language of adult heritage speakers is compared with the language of bilingual children; such children outperform heritage speakers on a variety of linguistic properties. The critical factors that affect language change in heritage speakers include the age of onset of bilingualism and quantity/quality of input.

Keywords: heritage language, heritage speaker, bilingual language development, language acquisition, maturational effects, language loss, input, grammatical divergence

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