Subtractive Bilingualism among Children in Immigrant Families, Family Cohesion and Acculturation

A Critical Overview


  • Loc-An Thi Nguyen Aarhus University



subtractive bilingualism, heritage language, immigrant families, linguistic acculturation, English Linguistics 3: English in its Social and Regional Settings


Subtractive bilingualism is a phenomenon that is common among children of immigrants, and refers to a process in which the acquisition of a second language results in the deterioration of the heritage language. This article is a critical overview of some of the literature surrounding this phenomenon in immigrant families residing in English speaking countries, as well as how it can affect family relationships. It is concluded that heritage language proficiency, as well as the simultaneous mastery of the heritage language and the dominant language, typically leads to improved relationships, while subtractive bilingualism often is associated with intergenerational conflict. However, many immigrant families navigate issues of communication brought about by subtractive bilingualism in a multitude of different ways, thus illustrating that the families do not necessarily become dysfunctional due to linguistic barriers, rather they employ strategies to minimize miscommunication.


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How to Cite

Nguyen, L.-A. (2022). Subtractive Bilingualism among Children in Immigrant Families, Family Cohesion and Acculturation: A Critical Overview. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (8), 52–63.