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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: The Role of Prefabricated Language in Young Children's Second Language Acquisition Add Dissertation
Author: Natsuko Perera Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Georgetown University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2000
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics;
Director(s): James Alatis
Anna Uhl Chamot
Heidi Hamilton

Abstract: The debate over the role of memorized chunks of sentences called prefabricated language (PL) in young children's second language acquisition (SLA) has a long history. Mainly because of a methodological problem in defining and identifying PL and in distinguishing it from creative language, previous studies of PL have not provided clear and convincing evidence to support the claim that PL directly feeds into creative language. Also, the previous studies have failed to answer the question of a possible reanalysis of PL by an internal or preprogrammed process.

This study was an attempt to solve the methodological problem and to investigate whether and how PL contributes to the creative process during the transitional stage from single-word utterances to multiword utterances in SLA. In order to determine the relationship between PL and creative language, the author revised a method recently developed for PL research in first language acquisition to fit the context of the current multicase study of English-language acquisition by four young Japanese children. Also, the effect of verbal interactions on PL analysis was examined to determine whether any external factors motivate PL analysis.

The results showed that most of the creative language in this study was constructed from PL or from analyzed PL--not from freely combined single words. Qualitative examination of the data revealed that the subjects who produced a larger number of creative sentences possessed a greater variety of PL and analyzed PL in a more sophisticated manner. Additionally, some productive errors and rule applications were present during PL analysis by the subjects. However, the study found no interactional effect on PL analysis.

These findings suggest that PL is the origin of creative language and that young learners actively seek abstract rules by analyzing PL. Although the problem of reanalysis remains, the study reveals that PL plays a major role in the beginning stages of SLA. This study, which has some pedagogical implications, also raises issues for future studies.