Reflection On Mother Tongue

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The present work proposes a reflection on “mother tongue”, a subject matter that has rarely been object of attention in the field of language acquisition. Moreover, it is our intention to shed light on the multiple and conflicting meanings hidden under the expression “mother tongue”. The theoretical background adopted here states that subjective structuring and language acquisition are mutually determinant, as proposed by De Lemos (1992, 2002, 2005). Both in the common sense and in linguistics, the mother tongue is generally regarded as the one first learned by the child. The expression mother tongue implies the fact that the language learned by the child is the language of her mother – that is, her mother’s language is the first one to be acquired. For that reason, it is also called “first language” or L1 – an idea that indicates there may be a second language, classified as “foreign” or L2. Understanding that this is a simplification of a much more complex and multifaceted subject, it is therefore our intention in the present work to denaturalize the expression “mother tongue”. Karen P. Spinasse (2006) tackles this subject matter in earnest, a subject that, as we will see, should be taken into account to a greater extent. Her work points to the fact that the mother tongue, or first language (L1), is not necessarily the language of the mother and, what is more, may be not the “only” one. According to Spinasse, the mother tongue is generally considered to be the one we
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