Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Language and Education

pp 2766-2778

Heritage Language Learning and Socialization

  • Agnes Weiyun HeAffiliated withDepartment of Asian&Asian American Studies, State University of New York at Stony Brook


Although research bearing the label “heritage language” has had a relatively short history and consequently has a relatively small body of literature, the notion of “heritage language” has existed for a long time under various names such as “home language,” “mother tongue,” “circumstantial bilingualism,” “language maintenance,” or “language attrition,” depending upon the purpose for which these terms were created, be it sociolinguistic, ethnolinguistic, psycholinguistic, or educational. Despite social and psychological pressures to assimilate to mainstream ways of life in their new countries, minority language communities have been deeply committed to maintaining languages of their native countries by, for example, establishing weekend community‐based language schools. The earliest research on heritage language could be dated to about half a century ago, when Fishman ( 1964) established language maintenance and language shift as a field of inquiry. The significa ...

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