Language Attrition

Refugees, Heritage languages and Language Attrition

Language plays a significant role in the current migration crisis. It is often on the basis of a linguistic evaluation of refugees’ mother tongues that their refugee status is conceded (or not). On the top of the host societies’ concerns is the challenge of teaching the host language to adult and child returnees of diverse cultural backgrounds and a multiplicity of languages of origin. This concern is often burdened by the worry of many politicians and parts of the host societies that the refugees’ first languages may negatively impact on the host country by transforming the host language and creating new multilingual landscapes that are often not well accepted. An issue that is largely ignored or purposely banished from public discussions is the importance of maintaining the migrants’ home languages, especially in the case of child migrants, the population that is most vulnerable to first language loss.

This panel aims at moving the focus to the refugees’ and migrants’ home languages and to discuss 1) the linguistic consequences of losing the contact with a first language, 2) the cultural and emotional implication of this process of first language loss and 3) the cognitive, linguistic and academic advantages of first language maintenance.

We welcome abstracts on linguistic aspects of first language attrition, on sociolinguistic aspects of first language maintenance, on social and cognitive benefits of bilingualism and on academic and pedagogical questions of multilingual school environments that value the children’s home languages.

Org.: Cristina Flores (EHum2M / LTE)