LINGUIST List 12.547

Tue Feb 27 2001

Review: Hamers & Blanc, Bilinguality & Bilingualism

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  1. Greathouse, Laura, Review : Hamers and Blanc, Bilinguality and Bilingualism, 2nd Ed

Message 1: Review : Hamers and Blanc, Bilinguality and Bilingualism, 2nd Ed

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001 09:27:48 -0800
From: Greathouse, Laura <lgreathouseExchange.FULLERTON.EDU>
Subject: Review : Hamers and Blanc, Bilinguality and Bilingualism, 2nd Ed

Hamers, Josiane F., and Michel H. A. Blanc, (2000) Bilinguality and
Bilingualism, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 468pp.

Laura D. Greathouse, California State University, Fullerton


The second edition of Bilinguality and Bilingualism offers a very detailed
and insightful examination into the phenomenon of bilingualism in the
individual and the society. The authors have sought to present the latest
information on the topic, from the perspective of a variety of
disciplines, including psychology, psycolinguistics, sociology,
anthropology, education and political science. This is not an exhaustive
list, but demonstrates the depth of research on every aspect of
bilingualism and bilinguality considered by the authors. Their dedication
to presenting the state of the art of the study leads them to very diverse
studies, all of which are clearly laid out for the reader. The clarity of
the examples makes the concepts and ideas accessible to scholars within
the disciplines, but especially to those that are in different fields.

The design of the text is quite different from the previous edition from
1989. Two chapters have been completely removed, and the remaining
chapters are all modified and updated. The organization of the text
allows the reader to follow the development of the authors' theory and
models on language behavior, valorization of language and on the future
directions of each step of bilingualism and bilinguality. Each of chapter
presents key ideas and concepts, from the very basic, such as
bilingualism, to the more abstract or discipline specific, such as
neuropsychological development of bilinguals in chapter 6.

Chapter one, Definitions and Guiding Principles, is just that: a very
clear introduction to terminology and premises that provides a background
for the future chapters. Within this chapter, the authors present their
understanding of language behavior; five guiding principles that set the
ground rules for building their model for studying bilingualism and
bilinguality. These principles of language behavior are: "(1) there is a
constant interaction between the societal and the individual dynamics of
language. (2) Within and between levels there are complex mapping
processes between the form of language behavior and the functions it
serves. (3) there is a reciprocal interaction between culture and
language. (4) Self-regulation characterizes all higher- order behaviors,
and therefore language. (5) Valorization is central to these dynamic
interactions" (Hamers and Blanc 2000:24). These five principles stand as
the framework for understanding the diversity of bilingualism and societal
bilinguality. Perhaps most important of these five is the valorization of
language, adding to its importance and economic value for the speaker.

Chapter two, Dimensions and Measurement of Bilinguality and Bilingualism,
presents a list of dimensions to examine bilingualism and bilinguality
with. The authors focus on six dimensions: relative competence, cognitive
organization, age of acquisition, exogeneity, social cultural status and
cultural identity (25). These six dimensions are explores in detail, with
very clear examples of each. While each of these dimensions seem
self-explanatory, each topic is thoroughly explored, detailed and
clarified, to demonstrate exactly what the authors are detailing. In the
lengthier portion of the chapter, the authors explore a vast array of
methodological techniques, giving both the pros and cons of each method,
as well as the best circumstances for its employ. While a variety of
methods are explained, there is a very strong degree of fairness in the
presentations. "The main aim of the present chapter has been to draw the
reader's attention to the difficulties inherent in the attempt to define
and quantify languages in contact at all levels of analysis as well as to
the absence of adequate measures and the lack of refinement of existing
ones" (49). In addition, the authors make the point that "even if some of
the measures are still crude, it is preferable to use them rather than to
reject quantification altogether" (49).

The following chapters detail the potential areas of research, while
presenting the relevant major research for each section and idea.
Chapter three, ontogenesis of bilinguality, is an excellent overview of
relevant data dealing with language acquisition for both bilinguals and
monolinguals, from lexical and grammatical development. While the
majority of this data comes from studies of monolinguals, the comparisons
are noted and discussed. The differences between monolinguals and
bilinguals is quite pronounced, and discussed in detail. The authors note
that it is simply not feasible to treat bilingualism as a form of
monolingualism, that this ignores the variety of bilingualism and the
depth of the understandings of different linguistic resources. While the
chapter clearly demonstrates the state of the art of ontogenesis of
bilinguality, the authors state that the main problem with these studies
is that they consider bilingualism without the its social and cognitive
correlates, examining it in isolation.

Chapter four, Cognitive Development and the Sociocultural Context of
Bilinguality, examines the state of the art in the relationship between
cognitive development and bilinguality. The chapter examines all of the
relevant details of research examining the connections between cognition
and bilingualism, positives and negatives. "Because positive consequences
of bilingual experience result from the enhancement of cognitive
functioning, and negative consequences stem from the social conditions in
which the bilingual experience takes place, a general model of
bilinguality should bring together both the cognitive aspects and the
social aspects of bilingual development." (109).

Chapter five, Social and Psychological Foundations of bilinguality, seeks
to make an integration of cognitive and social aspects of bilingualism.
An examination of language development, with an emphasis on the social
aspects of bilingualism, such as language valorization, socialization to
language, form-function mapping and motivation. This chapter brings
together all of the previous chapters in a very clear theory and model of
interaction and bilingual development. Through a series of case studies,
the authors present a variety of different situations and scenarios to
examine the reasons for possible outcomes of bilinguality. The strength
of this chapter surpasses all of the other chapters, and really gives the
reader a flavor for the authors interests and theoretical foundations.

Chapter six, Neuropsychological Foundations of Bilinguality, seems a bit
out of synch with the previous chapters. While it does give the state of
the art of cerebral organization with regards to bilingualism, it seems to
be a bit off of the target of the rest of the book, which is examining
societal and psychological influences on bilingualism. This chapter
focuses on what we know about the biological organization of bilingualism
in the brain. While it is informative, it often seems dense and overly
detailed, which at times can be quite confusing. The flow of the text
changes for this chapter, diminishing the readability of this chapter.

Chapter seven, Information Processing in the Bilingual, is a
psycholinguistic examination of language representation and processing.
Coordinate bilinguals are compared to compound bilinguals in cognitive
organization, with a resulting model of bilingual processing. This
chapter returns to the style of the previous chapters, and details the
relevant studies dealing with cognitive processing.

Chapter eight, Social Psychological Aspects of Bilinguality: Culture and
Identity, is an excellent exploration of the bonds between language
choice, culture and identity. The discussion of identity is very good,
providing definitions and ideas from a wide range of disciplines. The
discussion of culture and ethnolinguistic identity is also quite good,
demonstrating the complexities of valorization of a minority language, and
the concomitant issues associated with identity for the bilingual
individual.

Chapter nine, Social Psychological Aspects of Bilinguality:
Intercultural Communication, further investigates the role of culture into
individual and group identity. The discussion of the incorporation of the
conflict between groups into identity is quite informative, and draws upon
a wealth of information on strategies for bilinguality, or monolinguality.
The discussion of code-switching as an identity marker is quite good,
allowing for choice and resistance in ethnolinguistic identity.

Chapter ten, Societal Bilingualism, Intergroup Relations and
Sociolinguistic Variations, moves away from an examination of the
individual, and looks to societal levels. Language as a symbol of
nationalism and identity is explored, along with a discussion of
assimilation of culture and language. Many extensive case studies and
examples clearly demonstrate many of the issues presented in previous
chapters applied to individuals. The extensive examination is complete
with a discussion of language planning and state motivations in linguistic
issues. It is a nice addition to the text, demonstrating the larger
global meanings of linguistic choice and the effects of language
valorization.

The final chapter, Bilingual Education, is a brief examination of the
phenomenon of language planning in the educational arena. The immensity
of the issue, along with the broadness of the term and the lack of a
cohesive understanding of bilingual education is clear in this chapter.
With the vast political discussions that play themselves out daily in the
news, this chapter is a welcome blueprint for understanding many of the
debates. The broadness of the approach, examining bilingual education for
minority students as well as for students of the dominant group makes this
chapter very even-handed in its examination. Bilingual education is often
an arena for grandstanding for groups for and against, yet this chapter
treads very carefully, presenting data on both sides of the debate. It is
a very detailed chapter, but could have touched more on the controversy
involved in such topics.

The concluding chapter summarizes the goals of the authors, to present a
clear guiding model of bilingualism and bilinguality. The directions for
future research are immense, and the text provides a wonderful database of
relevant research on many topics of bilingualism and bilinguality. While
the book's level of detail is helpful for newcomers to the area of
bilingualism, covering all topics with clear definitions, it can sometimes
be frustrating. The glossary at the end of the text is an immensely
helpful and useful addition. Overall, the text is a wonderful reference
on many issues dealing with an area that has always been in controversy.
The relatively unbiased approach of Hamers and Blanc provides a wonderful
resource to new scholars as well as experienced, amassing a great deal of
information from many disciplines into one comprehensive treatment.

Laura D. Greathouse is an assistant professor of linguistic anthropology
at California State University, Fullerton. Her research involves ESL
instruction for refugee and immigrant elementary students, examining
social and political influences on language development.


Address:
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Fullerton
P.O. Box 6846
Fullerton, CA 92834-6846
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