First Language Attrition as a Function of Age at Onset of Bilingualism: First Language Attainment of Turkish-English Bilinguals in the United Kingdom

Creative Commons License

Karayayla T., Schmid M. S.

Language Learning, vol.69, no.1, pp.106-142, 2019 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 69 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1111/lang.12316
  • Journal Name: Language Learning
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.106-142


This investigation aimed to provide insights into the controversial debate on the role
that age at onset of bilingualism plays in human language capacity with a focus on
what it entails for first language (L1) attrition. L1 performance of Turkish immigrants
(n = 57) in the United Kingdom with age at onset ranging between 7 and 34 years
was compared to that of Turkish monolingual controls (n = 29) across two linguistic
properties: structural complexity and accent. Findings generally showed that although
the immigrants achieved nativelike proficiency with respect to the overall structural
complexity of their L1, this was not the case for accent as those with an earlier age of
onset were less likely to sound like native Turkish speakers. We discuss these findings
in relation to two competing theoretical models of age effects and suggest that attrition
data need to be better accommodated within these models.