The attrition of Turkish as a third language: A preliminary case study investigation

Yasemin Yildiz | University of Westminster
Hande Koyuncuoglu | Yeditepe University

This longitudinal study investigates an English-French-Turkish-speaking seven-years-old female child’s repertoire combining two Indo-European languages, English and French, and Turkish, which is an Altaic language. Language attrition has mostly focused on first language (L1) attrition, and to a lesser extent on second language (L2) attrition. Third language (L3) attrition, however, has been mostly overlooked, and more attention has gone to adult language attrition after migration or after institutional language learning. Most research has in addition focused on only a subset of target languages (TL). This paper therefore addresses the attrition of child L3 (Turkish) attrition ‘after remigration’. The findings show selective regression with structurally assigned morphology and confirm the findings of previous studies showing that the younger the informant, the more attrition is likely to occur.

Keywords: multilingualism, third language attrition, Turkish
Link to International Journal of Applied Linguistics:

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Book review

Volume 70, November 2017, Pages 134-136

Book review
Corpus Linguistics and Linguistically Annotated Corpora, Sandra Kuebler, Heike Zinsmeister. Bloomsbury, London (2015), vii + 320 pp


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Explaining the orthography–phonology interface in written corpora: an Optimality–Theoretic approach

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This paper has two goals. The first goal is to contribute to the literature of Second Language Writing Systems (L2WS) by focussing on the British University in Dubai (BUiD) and the Arab Learner Corpus (BALC). The second is to demonstrate the close orthography–phonology interface in L2WS and critically address the issue of reform in a script. Unlike previous studies, which provide a holistic and descriptive analysis of all possible spelling errors of Arab learners of English (e.g., Haggan, 1991; and Randall and Groom, 2009), this study is different in two ways. First, BALC will be interpreted within a markedness framework and a constraint-based theory known as Optimality Theory. Second, particular emphasis will be given to the erroneous spelling forms which appear in lexical items exclusively with complex onset and coda clusters at the phonological level. The motive for this study is to look beyond spelling errors and bridge linguistic theory with learner corpora. The sub-corpora will be identified and categorised by using the Wmatrix3 program (Rayson, 20032005). The fulfilment of the above goals will provide new insights for researchers and teachers who are working closely in the areas of L2WS and learner corpora.

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Raising a bilingual child: a personal perspective from a linguist mother



The purpose of this post is not to provide any tips on how to raise a bilingual child, but rather to share my personal dilemma on this issue. Let me put this straight; I am a Linguist and a bilingual mother. The juxtaposition of {Linguist} and {Bilingual} mother is probably rare. Let me treat each concept separately. A Linguist Mother. Yes, perhaps it might sound flashy, but what exactly does not mean? Perhaps I can first define the not so glittery aspect of being a Linguist mother. Knowing too much about language and developmental linguistics can be a heavy burden ! Perhaps unlike other mothers you can over-train your child (e.g. by talking or singing and reading aloud everyday), you want your child to learn foreign languages, you are more prone to panic if your child is slow in their speech development, you are more cautious about the ambient language/dialect/accent in such degree that this affects your social network and the country/city/neighbourhood you decide to raise your child. The crux of the matter is that you do I’m afraid become quite prescriptive and this is over-driven by your motherly instincts. I do hope I outgrow these habits in due course!

What about the positive aspects? Your child will receive more enhanced input simply because you can put all your knowledge into practice. Especially if your child is not learning a phonics language, such as English, you can provide your child with phonics instruction at pre-school age; you can better recognize your child’s speech development, so if they are showing variable output you know that this is a normal sign of U-shape development; if they are reluctant to speak you know that this is because they are going through the silent period, etc. The best part is you can collect longitudinal data from your child, especially if you specialize in developmental linguistics. In other words, they can end up being your guinea pig, and that’s perhaps not positive from the child’s perspective!

All said and done. What about the second concept? A Bilingual Mother. I confess, this is the part I am struggling most as an English-Turkish bilingual mother. I am a Heritage speaker (HS) of Turkish,  and typically HSs are understood as early bilinguals, whose first language, the heritage language they were exposed to from birth at home, is different from the main language of their society (Valdes, 2000; Polinsky & Kagan, 2007, among others). Hence, as the second generation of the Turks living in London, I speak both ‘Turkey-Turkish’ (when conversing with the first generation, or when in Turkey) and ‘Europe-Turkish’, or to be more precise ‘London-Turkish’. As part of my daily translanguaging practice in Britain, I use a hybrid language and the mixing of English and Turkish is somewhat inevitable (!).  Raising a bilingual child (for my son this means simultaneous acquisition) requires intentional planning and can be a lot of hard work. There is no consensus on which strategy works well and nor have I established a strategic plan. Perhaps the ‘one language one parent’ strategy might be the easiest way out, but the strategy is not my concern. My concern is the nature of the hybrid language input. This morning, for instance, I found myself asking my son the following: ‘oglum car-in nerde?’ (where is your car? my son). In most cases, while at home, Turkish remains as the dominant language, while English is the embedded language. I am an advocate for Heritage Language Maintenance, so my decision to use Turkish is a conscious one. Yet I find myself reading aloud in English and teaching my son most concrete nouns in English, but with the Turkish grammar, so I code-switch and -mix. It is reassuring to know though that his lexical repertoire is in equal proportion of English and Turkish words, and most importantly he continues to acquire the words associated with Turkish culture (e.g. abla ‘sister’; abi ‘brother’; amca ‘uncle’, etc.).

So, to keep a long story short, as a bilingual and a linguist mother I have to remind myself that every child is unique and I have to do what suits best for my family. I also have to be aware that monolingual children might initially outperform my son, but he will eventually catch up. After all he has to process more than one language! He will also like myself acquire Turkey-Turkish, London-Turkish, London-Turkish-English, London-English, British-English. Each concept I enlist here deserves a separate discussion, I know! The crux of the matter is that studies/models on child language acquisition needs to address this emerging population sample. Oh and to make things more complicated, there’s also biliteracy development, which I dare not discuss at this particular point. I will instead wrap up this post with a picture of my son’s library (a portion- not all)… güle güle

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Twinkle, twinkle, little star…

I’m sure you can all recall a few nursery rhymes you used to sing as a child (or sing to your child). I certainly can remember a few, but before I had my son I was unable to recall most of my childhood favourites. The good news is that I have ‘relearnt’ these songs and widened my repertoire, that’s thanks to our regular visits to our local children’s play centers.

In case you are thinking as to what I am doing this 2015/16 academic year,  well without any further delay let me explain! Yes, I am full-time mother and often this role is somewhat underestimated. As a professional mother, deciding to take a brief career gap was a conscious decision I made for personal reasons. As a Linguist, I mainly specialize in developmental linguistics, and know that the first few years of a child is critical. Yes, many aspects of child development is part of ‘nature’, but a parents’ role is to provide nurture in a loving and caring environment. In terms of the nurture or environmental component, a baby’s brain develops as a consequence of both ‘experience-expectant’ (e.g. vision, hearing, language) and ‘experience-dependent’ (e.g. socio-emotional and cognitive development) processes.It is these two components which I strive to enrich for his development, as my son’s primary caregiver.


Having said all this, the primary purpose of this post is to provide a partial explanation to those curious about my current situation. Hopefully, when the right opportunity crops up I consider going back to work, but until then my central goal is to spend quality time with my son and educate him AND myself. When I do have ‘me’ time I still actively do research and continue to build the Mehmet Osman Corpus. Trying to balance work with personal life, is probably the most challenging, but my profession is also an integral part of my identity. Although maternal instincts come naturally it is after all a completely new role and takes time to adapt! This is all the more difficult if you are a mid-career professional, since your daily lifestyle, social network, hobbies, and primary and secondary discourse is pretty much established. According to Gee (1990), a person’s primary Discourse is what they are socialised into within their face-to-face kinship group (their family). Our primary Discourse shapes our initial ways of speaking, our ‘normal’ ways of acting, views,
values, beliefs, experiences and our first social identity. Secondary Discourses
socialise people outside of their immediate family groups, within institutions
(social structures) and other forms of social groupings and social practice. My secondary discourse is the discourse I use at work and part of my profession, but with my new motherly role I have had to learn a new secondary discourse. It is precisely this aspect that I have struggled with, as the vocabulary set and all other conventionalized conversation patterns are totally different. The further details of these differences and the specific challenges I have encountered deserves a separate discussion, possibly for a journal article, which I am currently developing.

Nonetheless, being a full-time mother now means that I am singing, dancing, playing with my child and other children, and mingling with other mums; all of these activities have now become a part of my daily ritual. Mind you, I have also realised that English is not the mother tongue of the many children raised here in London. Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Arabic are some of the many heritage languages I hear on a daily basis. It is a welcome to be surrounded with such diverse languages and cultures.

Ok, I have to leave now and do some singing 🙂 Below I have enlisted some of these songs. Those which are incomplete are the ones I already knew by heart, while the full lyrics are the ones I have ‘relearnt’! Oh before I go, I also sing Turkish nursery rhymes, but it’s pretty much limited in numbers and working on that as well!


Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are…

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, CLAP CLAP, If you’re happy and you know it stamp your feet, STAMP, STAMP

The wheels on the bus goes round and round, round and round…

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…

Rowley Powley, Rowley Powley Up Up Up, Rowley Powely, Rowley Powley Down Down Down, Prowley Rowley, Rowley Rowley Clap clap clap, Rowley Powley Rowley Powley Put Your hands behind you back…

One two three four five once I caught a fish alive, six seven eight nine ten, then I let it go again, why did you let it go? because it bit my finger so, which finger did it bite, this little finger on my RIGHT!

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re going to the moon. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re going to the moon.Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re going to the moon. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ZOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full! One for the master, One for the dame, And one for the little boy, Who lives down the lane

Wind the bobbin up, Wind the bobbin up, Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.
Wind it back again, Wind it back again, Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap,
Point to the ceiling, Point to the floor, Point to the window, Point to the door,
Clap your hands together, 1, 2, 3,

I am the music man, I come from down your way, and I can play! What can you play?              I play the piano! Pia-pia-pia-no, pia-no, pia-no; pia-pia-pia-no, pia-pia-no

Oh, the grand old Duke of York, He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of The hill and he marched Them down again. And when they were up they were up. And when they were down they were down. And when they were only half way up, They were neither up nor down.

Head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes, head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes, and eyes and ears and mouth and nose, head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes

Elephant has wrinkles, wrinkles, wrinkles, elephant had wrinkles, wrinkles everywhere, on their nose, on their head, on their tummy, on their ears, no one knows, no one knows, why aye aye aye!


Gee, J.P. (1990) Social Linguistics and Literacies, New York: Falmer.


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Call for papers

BAAL 2016. Taking stock of Applied Linguistics – Where are we now?

Source: Call for papers

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Mehmet Osman Corpus (MOC)

coming soon…


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