Native speakerhood in heritage language research

Andrew Lynch, Maria Polinsky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


This chapter provides an overview of heritage language (HL) research in relation to native speakerhood. The variation across HL speakers who range from overhearers to highly proficient individuals often indistinguishable from native speakers (NSs) is one of the greatest challenges faced by the field. We suggest that, on sociolinguistic grounds, much remains to be said about the acquisition and awareness of sociolinguistic variants in the HL; speaker agency and identities; "passing" as native in terms of contextually-situated language performativity; the role of ideologies in HL settings; community engagement and service-learning, and L2-HL learner interactions in the classroom. From the perspective of grammatical systems, more work needs to be done to distinguish effects of processing difficulties or memory limitations from more profound innovations in HL grammars. We argue that despite their knowledge gaps, HL speakers have much in common with NSs, and with appropriate instruction and expanded social use of the language they attain levels of proficiency highly comparable to those of NSs. The rapidly growing field of HL research calls for a dialogue among our various sub-disciplines, recognizing our shared goal to understand language variation in HL populations, develop better and more consistent assessment methodologies, and formulate pedagogical practices from which HL learners will most benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConnecting Across Languages and Cultures
Subtitle of host publicationA Heritage Language Festschrift in Honor of Olga Kagan
PublisherSlavica Publishers
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780893577797
ISBN (Print)9780893574857
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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