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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: An Investigation of Bilingual Childen's Metalinguistic Awareness in Two Typologically Unrelated Languages Add Dissertation
Author: Mohammed Al-Dossari Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Boston University, Linguistics Department
Completed in: 2004
Linguistic Subfield(s): Psycholinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard
Director(s): Paul Hagstrom
Shanley Shanley
Julie Coppola
Shakir Mustafa

Abstract: Reports in the literature conflict as to whether bilingual children are privileged with respect to metalinguistic awareness. Although some studies claim that all bilingual children attain metalinguistic awareness earlier than monolinguals, others suggest that such an advantage does not occur, or is only found for balanced bilinguals (those with equal proficiency in their two languages, e.g., Cummins, 1978), or on certain types of tasks (those which require high control of attention, as compared to high analysis of language, e.g., Bialystok, 1986). However, the majority of these studies were conducted with bilingual children who spoke typologically related languages, and with tests administered in only one of the two languages. Therefore, the present study investigates whether relative language typology or language of testing affects the bilingual advantage in metalinguistic awareness.

Participants were 59 children in grades K and 1: 22 English monolinguals and 37 Arabic-English bilinguals whose two languages are typologically unrelated. All participants completed an English proficiency test and six English metalinguistic awareness tests (two for each of phonological, word, and syntactic awareness). All bilinguals also completed an Arabic proficiency test and six equivalent Arabic metalinguistic awareness tests. Bilinguals were categorized as balanced or unbalanced based on their proficiency test scores.

Results on both English and Arabic metalinguistic awareness tasks indicated no consistent differences in performance attributable to language experience (i.e. monolingual, balanced bilingual, unbalanced bilingual), even when tests were grouped according to those that required high analysis vs. high control. However, there were significant age-related differences across virtually all tasks, with children in grade 1 outperforming children in grade K.

These results are only partially consistent with Bialystok (1986). As she predicts, monolinguals and bilinguals did not differ in their performance on tasks requiring high analysis. However, bilinguals did not outperform monolinguals on tasks requiring high control. They also partially support Cummins (1978): unbalanced bilinguals experienced neither negative nor positive effects in metalinguistic awareness. However, balanced bilinguals did not outperform monolinguals or unbalanced bilinguals. In sum, this study suggests that children’s ability to solve metalinguistic tasks improves with age and/or school experience irrespective of task demands, bilingual experience, relative typology of the two languages, or language of testing.