About this Research Topic
The notion of the native speaker has occupied a prominent place in foreign language research and theoretical linguistics. Traditionally, L2 and lingua franca speakers’ achievements have been compared with those of monolingual native speakers, although they constitute different groups of people, with different needs and abilities. Similarly, early psycholinguistic and bilingualism research used the ‘native speaker’ norm, based on an idealized first language (L1) competence, adopting the inclusion of a control group of monolingual speakers as a default in empirical research. On Chomsky’s early definition, native speakers are characterized by their ability to provide valid judgments on their language and identify ill-formed grammatical expressions, although they may not be able to explain exactly why they are ill-formed. Other attempts at characterizing the native speaker resort to specific key abilities, such as saying the same thing in different ways, hesitating and using fillers, predicting what the other person is going to say, and adding new verbal skills simply from language experience.
Current understanding has moved away from the Chomskyan idealized characterization, mainly in recognition of the amply documented individual variation in language competence, both in adult native speakers, and across language development. Furthermore, neuroscience research documents no structural differences in key brain structures underlying language use in monolinguals and bilinguals with a language acquisition onset before three years of age, and the role of age of onset as key factor in language competence has been further confirmed. Additionally, L2 speakers may display sensitivity to L2 properties, including prediction of upcoming words, in response to exposure, in a similar way to monolingual L1 speakers. Moreover, variation in certain cognitive abilities and competences can account for exceptional skills in L2 learning. Global varieties of the same language offer systematic differences at all levels of language structure, and further challenge unitary perspectives on a single native speaker standard. Emerging new fields of research, such as research on attrition, suggest that L2 learning selectively affects aspects of the native language, further undermining the notion of native monolingual competence as a permanent benchmark.
This Research Topic aims to stimulate discussion of the native speaker notion from a theoretical point of view, informed by empirical findings. Furthermore, we are soliciting an elaboration of notions, such as ‘multi-competent language speakers’ and monolingual speaker standards in a global world.
We welcome contributions from, but not limited to, the fields of psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, second language learning, bilingualism, heritage languages, language attrition, focusing on the following overarching questions: Who is a native speaker? What are the criteria that can be used? Can the traditional definition of a native speaker be maintained in a world that is largely multilingual?
Both theoretical and empirical studies are welcome on divergent monolingual and bilingual populations, with longitudinal or cross-sectional designs, and using a range of methodologies. Interdisciplinary research is specifically encouraged. We are particularly interested in original research articles, hypotheses & theoretical contributions, opinions, and perspective papers. An abstract MUST be submitted prior to any manuscript, with Topic Editors expecting an abstract of around 350 words.
Keywords: Native speaker, Multilingual world, Language acquisition, Second language, Bilingualism, Heritage language, Language Attrition, Individual Variation, Varieties of English, English as a Lingua Franca.
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.