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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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2. Code-switching (CS)


A central question in the field of bilingualism concerns the interaction between the bilingual’s two language systems, including the influence that each system has on the knowledge and use of the other as well as the form and motivation for using both languages in the same discourse, namely code-switching (hereafter CS). CS is most frequently found and studied in the natural speech of members of minority groups who speak the native tongue at home and use the majority language in society at large when dealing with members of groups other than their own.

2.1. Defining the term

Generally, CS is defined as the use of two or more languages in the same discourse, i.e. the use of two or more linguistic varieties in the same conversation, without prominent phonological assimilation of one variety to the other. An early quite influential definition is that of Gumperz (1982: 59), who defines CS as “the juxtaposition within the same speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or subsystems”. Similarly, Poplack (1980: 583) in a study on Spanish-English CS defines CS as the alternation of two languages within a single discourse, sentence or constituent. Joshi (1985: 190) describes CS as a systematic and rule-governed phenomenon that refers to a situation where in the course of an utterance speakers of certain bilingual communities systematically produce utterances in which they switch from one language to another possibly several times. More specifically De Houwer (1995, 247)...

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