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A Case Study of Kurdish-German Pre-school Bilingual Children


Baban Mohamed

The state of acquiring more than one language as a child or an adult is not the exception; it is rather an everyday reality for a quite substantial part of today’s society. This book explores the phenomenon of code-switching within the field of child bilingualism from both linguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives. Based on collected data from Kurdish-German pre-school bilingual children in Austria, this empirical study aims at giving an analysis of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors that constrain child code-switching. The book shows specific interest in practices of code switching and mixing as displayed by Kurdish subjects of the study and in how far these can be sufficiently explained by existing models of (adult) bilingual language behavior. The results clearly show that code-switching can be related to the identity and characteristics of the speakers or to aspects of their social life, and that it can be subconsciously used to manage conflict when different languages are associated with different roles in a community.
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1. Language acquisition and bilingualism


1.1. Describing the phenomenon of bilingualism

Bilingualism is not a phenomenon that concerns only a few special people. In fact, as Wei (2000: 5) argues, one in three of the world’s population routinely uses two or more languages for work, family life and leisure. The state of acquiring more than one language by a child or an adult is not the exception, an issue concerning only a few learners; it is rather an everyday reality for a quite substantial part of today’s society. In Austria, for example, according to the Austrian Statistical Bureau, in Mid-2006, 814,800 foreigners legally lived in Austria, representing 9.8% of the total population. In Vienna, in 2005 more than 30% of the population was either foreign or of foreign origin (Wikipedia, 2010). Thus, the statistics show that bilingualism is the normal and rather natural state of being for a substantial part of the people living in Austria.

On the other hand, the investigation of bilingualism is a broad complex phenomenon that includes the study of the nature of the individual bilingual’s knowledge and use of two languages as well as the broader social and psychological consequences of using more than a language in a given society.

1.2. Monolingual vs. bilingual acquisition

1.2.1. Monolingual acquisition

Generally speaking, in early studies of language acquisition the focus was on monolingual acquisition and not on bilingual acquisition. Before research on bilingualism was being established, the scope of...

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