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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Learning the Sounds of Standard Jamaican English: Variationist, phonological and pedagogical perspectives on 7-year-old children's classroom speech Add Dissertation
Author: Véronique Lacoste Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Essex, PhD in Linguistics
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics; Phonetics; Phonology; Sociolinguistics; Language Acquisition;
Director(s): Peter Patrick
Philip Carr

Abstract: This dissertation is a phonological study of the learning of Standard
Jamaican English (SJE) by seven-year-old children in Grade 2 classrooms of
three rural schools. Quantitative, variationist perspectives and
Usage-based approaches to sound representation are employed to analyse the
children's (and their teachers') oral performance of SJE. Most children in
Jamaica acquire Jamaican Creole (JC) at home and learn SJE in school as a
second language variety. Given that teachers utilize what I term a
'modelling-replication framework' in Phonics lessons, i.e. one component of
the Language Arts curriculum, I have concentrated on the classroom inputs
that children have at their disposal to learn the target variety. Grade 2
teachers use certain sound patterns to mark SJE and/or Classroom speech,
with a view to stimulating the children's awareness of the relationship
between these patterns and the context of usage to which they appropriately
belong, i.e. according to style. The classroom discourse is comprised of
contextually - and pedagogically - driven speech patterns that are not
necessarily observed among adult Jamaican speakers. The phonological and
phonetic study focuses on word-final (-t, -d) consonant clusters and
word-final vowel duration alongside classroom's stress assignment, i.e.
patterns of pitch and loudness.

The children's oral participation in the classroom is based on imitative,
non-spontaneous strategies whereby the interaction involves the repetition
of the phonetic shape of word-forms by automatisation and absorption. Some
sound patterns, though, are not available from the oral drill exercise and
are only passively modelled by the teachers. The children's internalisation
process in this case is not as focused as for the orally drilled items.
Some speech patterns are not drilled at all. Such research provides a basis
for understanding the learning processes and development of the SJE sound
system at the local level as well as assisting teachers in pinpointing the
forms of spoken features that their pupils produce in response to their own.

The thesis further examines the rapport between quantity and quality of
input and exposure, and its implications for SJE learning and performance.
I demonstrate that linguistic factors such as the phonetic environment, and
usage-based factors such as lexical frequency, also significantly constrain
the learning process. An important finding is that children are exposed to
as well as integrate some level of phonetic and statistical detail in their
growing (mental) sound repertoire. The teachers' variable usage of modelled
forms in class generates the children's likelihood of developing a protean
target variety. Variability reflects a fine stylistic stratification,
according to appropriateness and amount of attention paid to the patterns
taught by target and frequency, and performed in different tasks
environments. Socio-stylistic and socio-cultural development is argued to
be part of language learning. The required performance of the children in
this educational environment transcends the reproduction of linguistic
forms modelled by their teachers. Both the manipulation and subsequent
acquisition of those forms involve linguistic, and to some degree social,
awareness from each member of the class. Based on the history of Jamaica,
several social, multicultural and historical elements have come to mould
the language profile of the Jamaican classroom. The motives for language
choice and conflict between SJE and JC in the classroom thus are deeply
grounded in the Jamaican social structure.