Shift in language dominance in bilinguals

An acculturation perspective


  • Kate Hammer University College London



Language dominance, acculturation, language shift, language development over lifespan, complementarity principle, Polish-English bilinguals


This paper investigates shift in language dominance in sequential bilinguals following migration. Participants include 149 Polish-English bilinguals who relocated to the United Kingdom in early adulthood and underwent processes of acculturation and sociocultural integration. The independent variables in this study are divided into (1) sociocultural aspects, including: migration, acculturation level, social network profile, predicted future domicile; and (2) biographical aspects, including: age of onset of L2 acquisition (AoA), age at migration, and length of residence. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The findings revealed strong links between language dominance and sociocultural variables including acculturation level, social network profile, and predicted future domicile. The results showed that sociocultural integration is a strong predictor of shift in language dominance. This study adds sociocultural and dominance perspectives to current research on language development over lifespan, by documenting a shift in language dominance in young adult sequential bilinguals following migration. 

Author Biography

Kate Hammer, University College London

Dr Kate Hammer is a Lecturer at the UCL Centre for Applied Linguistics, University College London, United Kingdom. Her research interests are varied and include the interaction between language use in bilinguals, cognition, and culture. She has authored a number of original research publications, including ‘L1 + L2 to the power of culture: Acculturation and language use for cognitive domains in bilinguals’, published by Cambridge University Press.  


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How to Cite

Hammer, K. (2021). Shift in language dominance in bilinguals: An acculturation perspective. Sociolinguistic Studies, 15(2-4), 299–322.