Understanding language attrition through orthography

Beatriz Bermúdez-Margaretto, Federico Gallo, Mikhail Pokhoday, Yury Shtyrov, Hamutal Kreiner, Andriy Myachykov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The decay in the proficiency of the native language (L1), known as first language attrition, is one of the least understood phenomena associated with the acquisition of a second language (L2). Indeed, the exact cause for the deterioration in L1 performance, be that either the interference from L2 acquisition or the less frequent use of L1, still remains elusive. In this opinion paper, we focus on one largely understudied aspect of L1 attrition—namely, the erosion of the L1 orthographic knowledge under the influence of L2 orthography. In particular, we propose to study differences in orthographic processing between mono-and bilingual populations as an approach, which, in turn, will allow to address both cognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying L1 attrition. We discuss relevant experimental paradigms, variable manipulations and appropriate research methods that may help disentangle the largely debated question of L2 interference vs. L1 disuse, clarifying the nature of the L1 orthographic attrition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number199
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The present study has been supported by a Russian Science Foundation Grant (project no. 19-18-00550) awarded to the HSE University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Bilingualism
  • Biliteracy
  • First language attrition
  • Orthography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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