LINGUIST List 14.936

Sun Mar 30 2003

Diss: Applied Ling: Sharifian "Conceptual..."

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  1. f.sharifian, Applied Ling: Sharifian "Conceptual-Associative System..."

Message 1: Applied Ling: Sharifian "Conceptual-Associative System..."

Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2003 03:28:55 +0000
From: f.sharifian <f.sharifiancowan.edu.au>
Subject: Applied Ling: Sharifian "Conceptual-Associative System..."


Institution: Edith Cowan University, Western Australia
Program: School of International, Cultural, and Community Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Farzad Sharifian 

Dissertation Title: 

Conceptual-Associative System in Aboriginal English: A Study of
Aboriginal Children Attending Primary Schools in Metropolitan Perth


Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics

Dissertation Director 1: Ian G. Malcolm
Dissertation Director 2: Craig Speelman


Dissertation Abstract: 

National measures of achievement among Australian school children
suggest that Aboriginal students, considered as a group, are those
most likely to end their schooling without achieving minimal
acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy. In view of the fact that
many Aboriginal students dwell in metropolitan areas and speak English
as a first language, many educators have been unconvinced that
linguistic and cultural difference have been significant factors in
this underachievement. This study explores the possibility that,
despite intensive exposure to non-Aboriginal society, Aboriginal
students in metropolitan Perth may maintain, through a distinctive
variety of English, distinctive conceptualisations which may help to
account for their lack of success in education.

The study first develops a model of conceptualisations that emerge at
the group level of cognition. The model draws on the notion of
distributed representations to depict what are here termed cultural
conceptualisations. Cultural conceptualisations are conceptual
structures such as schemas and categories that members of a cultural
group draw on in approaching experience. The study employs this model
with regard to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students attending
schools in the Perth Metropolitan area.

A group of 30 Aboriginal primary school students and a matching group
of non-Aboriginal students participated in this study. A research
technique called Association-Interpretation was developed to tap into
cultural conceptualisations across the two groups of participants.
The technique was composed of two phases: a) the 'association' phase,
in which the participants gave associative responses to a list of 30
everyday words such as 'home'and 'family', and b) the 'interpretation'
phase, in which the responses were interpreted from an emic viewpoint
and compared within and between the two groups. The informants
participated in the task individually.

The analysis of the data provided evidence for the operation of two
distinct, but overlapping, conceptual systems among the two cultural
groups studied. The two systems are integrally related to the dialects
spoken by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, that is,
Aboriginal English and Australian English. The discrepancies between
the two systems largely appear to be rooted in the cultural systems
which give rise to these dialects while the overlap between the two
conceptual systems appears to arise from several phenomena such as
experience in similar physical environments and access to 'modern'
life style. A number of responses from non-Aboriginal informants
suggest a case of what may be termed conceptual seepage, or a
permeation of conceptualisations from one group to another due to
contact.

It is argued, in the light of the data from this study, that the
notions of 'dialect' and 'code-switching' need to be revisited in that
their characterisation has traditionally ignored the level of
conceptualisation. It is also suggested that the results of this study
have implications for the professional preparation of educators
dealing with Aboriginal students.
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