A longitudinal study of bilingual identity development in a heritage language learner
Research on linguistic identity and community membership negotiation in the fields of second language acquisition and heritage language has rightly focused on adolescents and older individuals. Aiming to fill a gap in the literature, this paper addresses this topic from the perspective of younger heritage speakers, focusing on what dialogue reveals about such negotiation by the young heritage speaker, and on what purposes the heritage language serves. By presenting data from a case study of a heritage learner, a child growing up in an English-Romanian bilingual home, this paper shows that dialogue reveals the child’s use of language to negotiate linguistic identity and community membership both for herself and her interlocutors. Recognizing the significance of developing a bilingual identity for heritage speakers, and the broader goal for our society to embrace multilingualism, the paper concludes with implications from this research for family, community, and public education.
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