Chapter 7. Language loss or retention in internationally-adopted children

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It is well known that the most active period for brain development and acquisition of native language phonology occurs within the first year of life. For children who continue to speak their native language, early phonological representations may create the framework for the acquisition of more complex language abilities. However, internationally-adopted (IA) children discontinue their birth language when they begin to acquire their adopted language and, thus, exposure to and use of the language that gave rise to these native language representations is not maintained. In this chapter, we discuss neuro-cognitive evidence for the loss of elements of adoptees’ birth language. The implications of the fate of the birth language are considered in the context of typical developmental processes that occur during the earliest stages of language acquisition. In particular, we consider the impact of early experiences with the birth language on second language development and processing in adoptees and in language learners in general.


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