Aims and Objectives/Purpose/Research Questions: Second language researchers have
focused increasingly in recent years on “heritage language learners,” or adult learners who wish to
learn, relearn, or improve their linguistic proficiency in a family language they spoke while growing
up. The present study examines this domain with a particular focus on Arabic.
Design/Methodology/Approach: We present in this paper a “scoping review” that
systematically examines the theoretical approaches, methods, contexts, instruments, and linguistic
foci found in empirical research on Arabic heritage language learning and learners. Following a
comprehensive search, 34 empirical studies (27 journal articles and seven dissertations/theses)
were identified that met our criteria.
Data and Analysis: Each study was coded for the samples, designs, theoretical approaches,
data collection instruments, and a number of other substantive and methodological features and
practices. Frequencies and percentages of study features were then calculated.
Findings/Conclusions: Among other results, the study revealed a variety of approaches to
defining heritage learners/learning. Although studies in this domain most often employed cross-sectional designs and interviews to collect data, a variety of theoretical approaches both socially
and cognitively oriented can be found.
Originality: This study presents the first attempt to apply synthetic research techniques to the
growing body of research on heritage language learning/learners.
Significance/Implications: Our results describe this growing domain, identifying current trends
and potentially fruitful directions for future research.