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Reconsidering Early Bilingualism

A Corpus-Based Study of Polish Migrant Children in the United Kingdom

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Marcin Opacki

This book investigates the language of Polish-English bilingual children raised in the United Kingdom and their Polish monolingual counterparts. It exemplifies the lexico-grammatical knowledge of both groups and uses corpus-based grammatical inference in order to establish the source of the impediment of the minority language of the bilingual group. The author applies the methodology of corpus linguistics and narrative analysis to study the language of young bilinguals. He presupposes the caveat that a child-type competence exists and can be contrasted with an adult-type competence. He uses a variety of corpus frequency measures to compare the specific stylometric features of bilingual child narratives and their monolingual counterparts. The book focuses on how bilingual and monolingual language differs in areas such as the lexicon, morphosyntax, and semantics.

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Abstract

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Premise

The present study investigates the language of Polish-English bilingual children who were raised in the United Kingdom and their Polish monolingual counterparts. An attempt is made to model the lexico-grammatical knowledge of both groups using corpus-based grammatical inference in order to establish the source of the impediment of the minority language of the bilingual group. The methodology of corpus linguistics is applied in order to inspect whether it is bilingualism itself that contributes to the transitional lacks in grammatical accuracy (Gathercole, 2007), or rather whether this is an effect of language type (i.e. a typological effect), or whether it is a cumulative effect of both bilingualism and language type.

Methodology

The approach adopted herein is theory-grounded, meaning that rather than inspecting idiolectal features, like most longitudinal studies of child language have done in the past (cf. Pearson, 2007; 2008), the present study presupposes that a child-type langue (in the de Saussurian sense), or competence (in the Chomskyan sense), exists and can be contrasted with an adult-type langue (or competence). Child output was elicited and analyzed using the narrative analysis approach (Gagarina et al, 2012), meaning that each child participated in an experiment session in which he or she told one short picture story and then retold a story delivered by the experimenter.

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