Research Topic

The Home Language Goes to School: Heritage Languages in Classroom Learning Environments

About this Research Topic

Speakers of a heritage language (also known as immigrant, community, or home language) acquire it naturalistically at home as a minority language, in a country or region where a different, majority language is spoken (e.g. Spanish or Hindi in the US, Polish or Bangladeshi in the UK, Russian in Norway, etc.). ...

Speakers of a heritage language (also known as immigrant, community, or home language) acquire it naturalistically at home as a minority language, in a country or region where a different, majority language is spoken (e.g. Spanish or Hindi in the US, Polish or Bangladeshi in the UK, Russian in Norway, etc.). Chronologically, it is the first language of the individual, and possibly one of two or more native languages. In this sense, a heritage speaker is someone that is in a household that speaks a language other than that of the regional language and, as a consequence, learns this language naturalistically at home.

Heritage language speakers complete their schooling from early age in the dominant, or societal, language , but may later, when they reach high school and/or college, attend language classrooms to improve their abilities in the heritage language. In the language classroom, however, heritage speakers and second language (L2) learners have different needs that stem from differences between heritage and L2 grammars. Such differences have been documented for a range of properties in multiple domains: the lexicon, inflectional morphology, syntax, and phonetics/phonology. To better serve these speakers, researchers from different traditions have investigated heritage bilinguals’ educational needs.

However, researchers focusing on heritage languages seldom talk across perspectives. Psycholinguists, formal linguists, emergentists, neurolinguists, sociolinguists, and educators have all contributed significantly to our knowledge of heritage speakers’ language performance (use) and competence (grammatical knowledge). In fact, there are substantial—and growing—bodies of literature on the topic from all these perspectives that, for the most part, do not talk to each other. The goal of this Research Topic is to bridge this gap with a specific emphasis on how cognitive scientists and teaching practitioners can inform each other’s work.

We welcome forward-looking proposals designed to address the challenges of heritage speakers and learners in language education in any country. Contributions should present findings that move beyond describing the state of the science; i.e., proposals should be based on original quantitative or qualitative research.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• Multidisciplinary and translational research, i.e., heritage speakers and educational psychology; cognitive psychology; or neurocognition, including psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics
• Language acquisition and development, including formal linguistic and usage-based approaches, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, computational and corpus linguistics
• Cross-linguistic influence and language transfer
• Literacy, bi/multiliteracy development, i.e., bilingual education, classroom language use, cross-curricular language development
• The bi/multilingual self in society, bilingualism and bicultural competence
• Language teaching methodologies for heritage speakers
• Language assessment for heritage speakers, e.g., formative or summative assessment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

22 September 2019 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

22 September 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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