Making sense of “home language” and related concepts

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Eisenchlas, Susana
Schalley, Andrea C
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Schalley, Andrea C

Eisenchlas, Susana

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2020
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Abstract

Reviewing the different conceptualisations of terms used in the field of bilingualism is complicated by ambiguity and diverse disciplinary, geographical, and ideological perspectives. Even a cursory look at the literature reveals a plethora of terms referring to bilinguals/multilinguals and the languages they use. Common terms for these languages include “majority” vs. “minority language”, “first” vs. “second lan-guage”, “environment/mainstream” vs. “home/community language”, “foreign” vs. “immigrant/heritage/ancestral language”, “native language”, “dominant language”, “language other than X” (X being the “dominant” language of the country) and “mother tongue”. Although these terms are frequently used as synonyms in aca-demic and popular debates, they encode subtle (and not so subtle) conceptual distinctions. However, the precise delimitations of these terms are not clear, and none appears to be able to capture the different dimensions encountered in re-search and practice. There is no one-size-fits-all term that can be drawn upon, in line with Wiley’s (2014: 19) remark that “any attempt to apply a single label to a complex situation is problematic.”

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Handbook of Home Language Maintenance and Development: Social and Affective Factors

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18

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Linguistics

Lexicography and semantics

Language studies

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Eisenchlas, S; Schalley, AC, Making sense of “home language” and related concepts, Handbook of Home Language Maintenance and Development: Social and Affective Factors, 2020, 18, pp. 17-37

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