Skip to main content

Heritage language learners under globalisation – identity, anxiety, and pragmatic development

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building

Globalisation increasingly creates transnational space where people grow up with multiple languages and dialects of different functions, such as home language, school language, and societal language. The growing population of heritage language learners is a byproduct of this process. Typically, they are children of immigrant families whose language ability develops through a series of sociolinguistic events—contact with a home language and a societal language in early childhood, shift to societal language as the primary language at school, dominance in societal language by early adulthood, and sometimes, relearning of the home language during adulthood. Their language learning journey breaks the codified norms we usually hold for first language, second language, and native language; their parallel socialisation in different language communities produces shifting identities (Wong & Xiao, 2010), gives rise to unique language-related emotional profiles (Xiao & Wong, 2014; Xiao-Desai, 2019b), and shapes a hybrid system of heritage learner pragmatics (Taguchi & Roever, 2017; Xiao-Desai, 2019a).

In this talk Dr Yang Xiao-Desai will present how a project that investigated the identity and anxiety of heritage language learners led to the development of a heritage learner corpus, thus supporting learner corpus research that revealed patterns of, and multilingual influences in, heritage pragmatic development.


Dr. Yang Xiao-Desai is Associate Professor of Chinese in San Francisco State University. She received her Ph. D. from University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her main areas of research are in heritage language development, second language acquisition, and language teacher education. She is interested in various social and affective factors of heritage/immigrant language population, and uses mixed method to study heritage language development, particularly the development of pragmatic competence. Her publications have appeared in Modern Language Journal, Heritage Language Journal, Chinese as a Second Language Research, etc. Prior to San Francisco State University, she has also taught in University of South Carolina, UC Davis and Middlebury College.

Contact name: