NATIVE LANGUAGE. A general term often used synonymously with MOTHER TONGUE. It dates from the Middle Ages, when it was widely believed that language is physically inherited, one's birth determining both language and nationality. Because of this association with birth and birthright and the confusion associated with the word native, some linguists consider that the term should, like NATIVE SPEAKER, be avoided or used with caution in scholarly work. See FIRST LANGUAGE, SECOND LANGUAGE.
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