Heritage Language Development and Identity Construction Throughout the Life Cycle

Authored by: Agnes Weiyun He

Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States

Print publication date:  January  2014
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415520669
eBook ISBN: 9780203122419
Adobe ISBN: 9781136332494


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The objectives of this chapter are twofold: to argue for an identity-centered, composite-lifespan approach to heritage language (HL) research and to showcase a specific study that gives prominence to the connected and collective meanings of life histories. I begin with the need for an identity-centered approach to examine HL development, then assess the benefits and shortcomings of a life-history-based narrative approach to understand identity formation and transformation and finally use my own research on Chinese as a heritage language (CHL) as an example to illustrate a methodology that entails multiple sites, perspectives, data types, and time scales. Given the multiplicity and complexity of these factors, I argue that issues associated with learner identity are no longer confined to national borders or ethnic barriers in the context of immigration and globalization.

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