The “native speaker” as a metaphorical construct

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6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper deconstructs the discourse of the concept of the native speaker. It critiques the logic of Chomsky’s theoretical idealization of the native speaker-hearer, which leads to a suppression of consideration of individual variation. In applied linguistics, the linguistic competence of the native speaker has either been the assumed target of L2 acquisition, or, more recently, has been abandoned as the target and replaced by various models of communicative proficiency. The paper adopts a non-dichotomous position with respect to the possibility of attainment of linguistic competence. It argues that the opposition between ‘native speaker’ and ‘non-native speaker’ is metaphorically grounded in social variables of group identity, and in particular, in the conceptual metaphor BIRTH IS SOCIAL IDENTITY. Individual life histories might or might not conform to a single social identity, and in today’s era of globalization, the attainment of multilingual competence is possible and even prevalent. The native vs. non-native dichotomy subtly sustains social discrimination against ‘non-native speakers’ and NNS educators. Therefore, it is advocated that the discourse of applied linguistics use the more neutral term ‘linguistic expertise’ and focus on the process and conditions of attainment of bilingual and multilingual competence.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Cognitive Processing
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameHuman Cognitive Processing
ISSN (Print)1387-6724


  • birth
  • identity
  • language competence
  • metaphor
  • nationality
  • native speaker


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