First Language Attrition: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and What It Can Be

Federico Gallo, Beatriz Bermudez-Margaretto, Yury Shtyrov, Jubin Abutalebi, Hamutal Kreiner, Tamara Chitaya, Anna Petrova, Andriy Myachykov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This review aims at clarifying the concept of first language attrition by tracing its limits, identifying its phenomenological and contextual constraints, discussing controversies associated with its definition, and suggesting potential directions for future research. We start by reviewing different definitions of attrition as well as associated inconsistencies. We then discuss the underlying mechanisms of first language attrition and review available evidence supporting different background hypotheses. Finally, we attempt to provide the groundwork to build a unified theoretical framework allowing for generalizable results. To this end, we suggest the deployment of a rigorous neuroscientific approach, in search of neural markers of first language attrition in different linguistic domains, putting forward hypothetical experimental ways to identify attrition’s neural traces and formulating predictions for each of the proposed experimental paradigms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number686388
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - 7 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This present study has been supported by Russian Science Foundation Grant (project no. 19-18-00550) to the National Research University Higher School of Economics.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Gallo, Bermudez-Margaretto, Shtyrov, Abutalebi, Kreiner, Chitaya, Petrova and Myachykov.


  • bilingualism
  • cross-linguistic interactions
  • first language attrition
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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