What kind of speakers are these? Placing heritage speakers of Russian on a continuum

Olga Kagan*, Miriam Minkov, Ekaterina Protassova, Mila Schwartz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


It is commonly presupposed that one's first/home language is acquired easily, but there are numerous prerequisites for this "ease of acquisition": multifaceted purposes and a high frequency of use, a broad spectrum of speakers and situations, developing the habit of receiving information about the world in the language (the primary socialisation and verbally-mediated cognitive development), and shaping one's behaviour through this means of communication. Today, Russian develops as a pluricentric language with multiple centres of contact with languages of environment, e.g., in the USA, Israel, Germany, and Finland, as is demonstrated in this study with teenager bilinguals with the goal to show what is native-like and what belongs to their special proficiency. The debate upon pluricentricity strongly interrelates with the notions of norms/ standards and native/heritage speakers in diaspora. Heritage speakers often report that they struggle to recognize their language imperfections. The position of the heritage speakers between the L1 and the L2 speakers/learners of a language is both emotionally and practically vulnerable. The concept of a native speaker of Russian should be rethought, and the multilingual speakers who claim to have Russian as their first language should be offered placement on the scale between native and non-native performance, as part of a continuum and not positioned on one end of this continuum.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Changing Face of the "Native Speaker?
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from Multilingualism and Globalization
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781501512353
ISBN (Print)9781501517693
StatePublished - 22 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Heritage language
  • Heritage speaker
  • Israel
  • Pluricentricity
  • Russian language
  • Transmission
  • USA


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