Abstract SLA research on age in naturalistic contexts has examined learners’ ultimate attainment, while instructed research has emphasized the rate of learning (Birdsong 2014. Dominance and age in bilingualism. Applied Linguistics 35(4). 374–392; Muñoz 2008. Symmetries and asymmetries of age effects in naturalistic and instructed L2 learning. Applied Linguistics 29(4). 578–596). However, both streams of research, which view age as a biological construct, have overlooked this construct through an ideological lens. To address this gap, and in keeping with Blommaert’s (2005. Discourse . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) call to examine language ideologies and related ideologies in an era of superdiversity, our paper explores the ideology undergirding age-based research and examines it in conjunction with the practice-based approach to better understand the use of Burmese as a heritage language, a language characterized by a hierarchical and an age-determined honorific system. Drawing on data from a larger ethnographic study involving Burmese migrants in the US, analyses of the bilingual practice of address forms of generation 1.5 Burmese youth demonstrated that age was relationally constructed. While these youth strategically adopted ‘traditional’ linguistic practices ratified by Burmese adults when interacting with their parents, such practices were invoked and subverted in interactions involving their siblings and other Burmese adults less familiar to them. In focusing on the social and linguistic struggles encountered by these transnational multilingual youth, this paper also addresses the complexities surrounding heritage language learning.
Applied Linguistics Review – de Gruyter
Published: Mar 1, 2016