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First language attrition without second language acquisition: An exploratory study

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We investigate whether Russian immigrants in Israel with little or no knowledge of Hebrew (L2) experience attrition of Russian (L1). We compared immigrants with no knowledge of Hebrew (−Hebrew), immigrants who knew Hebrew (+Hebrew), and monolingual controls on correctness judgment of collocations and of complex grammatical constructions. On collocations, the −Hebrew immigrants performed similarly to the +Hebrew immigrants. On grammatical constructions, they performed worse. Results of grammatical constructions correlated positively with Hebrew proficiency and usage. We conclude that immigrants with no L2 knowledge can experience just as much, or even more, attrition of L1 as immigrants with L2 knowledge. Moreover, higher L2 proficiency may positively affect L1 maintenance.
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Keywords: Hebrew; Israel; L1 attrition; Russian; attrition without acquisition; “second-hand” attrition

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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