Turning the tide: Reversing heritage language attrition and shift in a Chinese American family

Abstract 摘要

Families immigrating to English-speaking countries, such as Chinese families in the USA, typically undergo language shift to English within three generations. In principle, however, language shift can be reversed, as documented in the case of certain endangered languages. In a case study of a three-generation Chinese American family, we show how heritage language attrition and inter-generational language shift can be reversed. The birth of a third generation motivates the second-generation parents to resume speaking and acquiring Chinese. Awareness of the advantages of bilingualism and recognition of a Chinese American identity lead the second-generation parents to transmit Chinese language and culture to the third generation.


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