Chapter 5. Long-term language development in international adoptees

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The linguistic development of internationally adopted children has been studied extensively for several decades. Whereas this research has mainly concerned toddlers and pre-school children during their first years after adoption, school-age children, and adolescents, there is currently scarce empirical evidence on the long-term linguistic development in adults with adoption background. While studies of infants and pre-school children generally show fast and positive short-term progress in linguistic development, medium-term studies (4–10 years after adoption) describe adoptees as still “lagging behind” their non-adopted peers. This chapter reviews the studies to date on long-term outcomes in the linguistic development of adoptees. What happens after more than ten years of exposure and into adulthood? From the review, we conclude that slight differences between adopted and non-adopted L1 speakers of a language often remain into adulthood. In addition, the limited evidence that exists to date suggests that adults who at a young age emigrated with their families to the L2 environment, and therefore continued to develop their L1, exhibit similar levels of L2 proficiency as internationally adopted adults. However, more research is required to further substantiate and generalize the conclusions that are made on the basis of our review.


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