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  • Laura Domínguez (a1), Glyn Hicks (a1) and Roumyana Slabakova (a2)


Pascual y Cabo and Rothman (2012) and Kupisch and Rothman (2018) argue against the use of term incomplete to characterize the grammars of heritage speakers, claiming that it reflects a negative evaluation of the linguistic knowledge of these bilingual speakers. We examine the reasons for and against the use of “incomplete” across acquisition contexts and argue that its use is legitimate on both theoretical and empirical grounds. Our goal is to present arguments for using the term, not to evaluate the scientific validity of incomplete acquisition over other possible accounts. Although our conclusion is that the term should not be abandoned, we advocate a position whereby researchers consider the possible negative impact of the terminology they use and how they use it. This position aims to resolve the tension between the need to prioritize scientific effectiveness and the need to avoid terminology that can be negatively misconstrued by the general public.


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*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laura Domínguez, University of Southampton, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom. Email:


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  • Laura Domínguez (a1), Glyn Hicks (a1) and Roumyana Slabakova (a2)


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