Generally, the concept of bilingualism is regarded to stand for a linguistic phenomenon of constant usage of two languages that is realized through the code-switching and tends to be mainly of the socio-psychological nature. Within the frames of linguistic researching, scholars proved that it contains various language aspects. Besides, this particular sample of linguistic code-switching may occur in case of both adults and children. The aim of our research deals with the notion of children bilingualism, especially in the language pair of Arabic-English code-switching and with the case of a child aged from two till five years old.
The topic of our research is child bilingualism in the Arabic-English pair of languages with the instance of analyzing the process of code-switching of five-year-old girl of the Saudi-Arabic origin who has been exposed to English since two. The subject of our study is the phenomena of code-switching and bilingualism, namely in the mentioned above language pair. The object of our study is the case study of a real girl named Remaz. In general, the notions of bilingualism and code-switching have been quite extensively researched in the linguistics. However the preliminary research of the existing scope of literature concerning the issue of investigation has revealed a distinct lack of relevant data concerning the Arabic-English language pair. Thus, the theme of our research appears to be topical as its main goal presupposes the disclosure of peculiar features of the above mentioned language pair and is aimed at discerning relevant peculiarities that could facilitate the process of second language acquisition among Saudi-Arabic children studying English.
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The material for the research has been obtained via the direct observation of the girl as well as conducting specific interviews with her parents. In order to be able to carry out the research of the girl’s peculiar speech patterns, she has been recorded at various stages of her life and at different times, for instance, while playing with her friends or studying. The delimitation of the given research is that linguistic patterns are being studied on the sample of one child of the Saudi-Arabic origin who has been exposed to English since early years. Furthermore, the family’s background displays clear indication of being able and prone to acquiring foreign languages. Hence, it would be interesting and valid to compare the findings of the given research with the one of similar study conducted in the future in order to have a possibility to establish some common patterns concerning all children in this language pair. Besides, the situation of children could be compared to the one among adults, so that the issue of this language pair could be deemed as exhausted. However, the scope of our research does not allowed to conduct such a mass-scale study, thus, permitting us to make first crucial steps in the domain of this language pair.
In terms of methodology, our research may be considered as an empirical one with the prevailing percentage of the use of observation. The findings of the analysis of the obtained data will be analyzed from the perspective of the quantity and quality. Quantitative methods will deal with the frequency of the occurrence of certain speech patterns and linguistic features characteristic of Remaz in different contexts. Therefore, it is possible to state that the statistical method will be complimentary to the primary one, i.e. of observation. Qualitative methods will comprise the summary an analytical analysis of the obtained data with the desired distinctions of certain linguistic patterns, code-switching triggers, and other features that will make the instance of the Arabic-English bilingualism stand out on the background of the gathered information regarding other instances of this linguistic phenomenon.
Having formulated the topic of our research, we have distinguished two crucial hypotheses, namely the following: 1. Is children code switching systematic? 2. What factors are triggering the switch? Having studied a huge scope of literature on this topic, we have distinguished several empirical researches that seem to be of utmost importance for our study. Among the sources that we have exploited, the following few analyzed in this research proposal seem to be the most relevant.
Children being exposed to a second language often freely code-switch between a foreign language and their native one. Certainly, a language system includes different aspects of switching from one language to another concerning the linguistic constraints. In the case of code-switching from Arabic into English by children between the ages of two to five years old, a set of grammatical rules exists in terms of being examined more specifically than other linguistic aspects. Thus, the language levels that depend on the investigation process presuppose taking into consideration morpheme, word, phrase, and sentence structure.
“There is a popular metaphor in linguistics that language is a living organism, which is born, grows and dies” (Wei, 2000). This idea leads to the possible assumption of drawing parallels between humans that contact with one another while speaking different languages and the so-called ‘language contact’. The reasons of reaching this contact depend on particular situational surrounding, and, thus, second language learning process may be chosen or forced. Despite the internal factors, linguistic contact is being implemented within the following external factors – cultural, educational, political, economic, religious, or whatever might be factors of accepting the changes or challenges by humans (Wei, 2000).
Recent researches have witnessed the cross-linguistic basis of the studies, which show how children all over the world exposed to foreign languages are prone to their first language acquisition. Though a majority of children acquires one language at a time, there are many parts of the world where the children code-switching occurrence takes place. Within the process of globalization, the great number of mobility cases is a constant phenomenon that causes the development of cross-cultural relationships because of which children bilingualism happens. It explains the exposure process to two languages at the same time while family members communicate both of them. The problems that should be examined in case of first language acquisition by monolingual children are relevant for researches in the sphere of studying the first language acquisition in bilingualism and for the simultaneous acquisition of two languages as well. Therefore, the key task in research is due to the fact whether a bilingual child forms one linguistic system that will be split into two separate systems, or the child starts to form two separate systems of languages simultaneously (Lanza, 1997).
“Language mixing, or contact between the bilingual's two languages, plays a significant role in the debate between those espousing either the one-system hypothesis or the two-system hypothesis” (Lanza, 1997). Children having exposed to two different languages at a time from birth tend to mix languages at all linguistic levels, namely at a word, utterance, and within the conversational level. The notion of linguistic mixing includes various phenomena. Obviously, there has to be a distinct differentiation between the one-system hypothesis and the two-system hypothesis. From the sociolinguistic perspective children bilingualism is considered to be the notion of a certain type of language socialization. In the case of early bilingualism, a child meets the difficulties of system formation. Linguistically, system is perceived as a bunch of norms where the inter-relationships are mutually defining and exclusive. According to Labov’s viewpoint, language is regarded to be “an assemblage of subsystems” that are deeply interconnected, which means the importance of every element of the linguistic system. “The various linguistic subsystems include phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics” (Lanza, 1997). Pragmatics is viewed as a relevant element to be investigated in terms of language context while taking into account a question of linguistic mixing in early bilingualism.
The term language mixing presupposes the act of linguistic interaction between two languages. Therefore, language mixing means the existence of two or more separate linguistic systems and namely, “the combination or putting together of two or more separate entities” (Lanza, 1997). According to Köppe and Meisel, the notion of early bilingualism anticipates the fact that elements that are relevant to both languages are irrespective of the matter that makes it happen. Vihman, for instance differentiate between language mixing and code-switching. However, the phenomenon of code-switching has been applied to the mature bilinguals who already are able to separate two systems, whereas language mixing has been used for explaining children’s reactions. In other researches, these two phenomena are equated; namely, code-switching is regarded to be a type of language mixing.
Language behavior cannot exist outside the cognitive system, because language itself serves the functions both social and psychological. “When language is processed by an individual it is always intermingled with cognitive and affective processes” (Hamers & Blanc, 2000). In the societies with the situation of coexistence of two or more languages, a second language serves as a mediating factor within the ethno-linguistic community diversities on the multicultural arena. Although these cultural issues to a greater extent concern a mature bilingual, an early bilingual is exposed to the acquiring particular cultural pattern beyond the family influence. Bilingual development is seen as a certain case of language development that is dependent upon a set of socialization processes, the linguistic functions, and the behavioral models in the child’s linguistic environment. Early bilingual’s language behavior is distinguished by the interpersonal interactions with the significant representatives of his/her social network. “Through the process of language socialization the child internalizes the different forms and functions of language” (Hamers & Blanc, 2000). The process of internalization of forms and functions gives a child possibility for developing socio-psychological processes in terms of development of his/her own social identity. Internalization also serves a sort of cognitive role in the child’s growth and cognition. Language itself carries socio-psychological ‘baggage’ in which a plenty of messages is stored that presupposes the listener perceiving the information dependent upon community norms. Code-switching “conveys the message of dual identities or memberships in both of the cultures that the language index” (Myers-Scotton, 2006).
According to Peal and Lambert’s investigations concerning measures of achievement and intelligence capacity of bilingual children in comparison with monolingual ones, no evidence of deficiency in bilinguals was indicated. They performed at the same level or even on the superior one in contrast to their monolingual opponents. Thus, the results proved the fact that acquisition of two languages in childhood positively effects intellectual development in children. This investigation carried an innovative nature as, previously, a majority of psychologists considered early bilinguals to be less prone to the linguistic, cognitive and social development. Peal and Lambert proved the relevance of the cognitive aspect of development in the case of bilingual children. There were few studies, which dealt with the social and personal aspects of growing up acquiring two languages simultaneously. “It was not the purpose of the conference to evaluate existing governmental policies about bilingual education nor to make recommendations for changing such policies” (Homel at al., 1987). The conference had an intention to provide a certain synthesis of the research concerning children bilingualism and its effect on the development of a child.
A question whether a bilingual’s brain functions in a different way than monolingual’s does has to be corrected in the sense of being transformed to some extent. Therefore, the correct one is “whether language is differently organized and processed in the brain of a bilingual compared with monolingual” (Wei, 2000). The evidence proves that second language acquisition involves the right hemisphere in a more distinct way in comparison to the similar process of the first language acquisition. With the growth of proficiency in a second language, right hemisphere activity decreases while, on the contrary, left hemisphere activity increases. “However, quantitative analyses of the existing data often show that the left hemisphere strongly dominates language processing for both monolinguals and bilinguals and that differences between them are the exception rather than the rule” (Wei, 2000). In terms of neurological processes, bilinguals do not much differ from monolinguals, because the lateralization process of language in the brain of both is held similarly.
In the United States, code-switching as the display of bilingualism increases significantly. Moreover, it is a desirable choice for many families. Certainly, a lot of advantages appear when a person speaks more than one language. In accordance with research data, bilingual children demonstrate developed cognitive functioning compared to monolinguals. “This includes better divergent thinking, greater cognitive flexibility, improved selective attention and a broader level of understanding of other perspectives” (Rhoades et al., 2008). In addition, bilingual children show improved communicative and cultural sensitivity and are more likely to maintain a family network. Besides, next to the privileges, there may be challenges on the way to bilingualism. It is known that less than 20 percent children that are exposed to a second language may understand but not speak it. In the majority of cases, children become simultaneously bilingual prior to the age of three. Otherwise, they learn two languages separately and sequentially. Therefore, parents have to be aware of the challenges that might occur and make sure their child has satisfactory exposure to the native tongue in order to give him/her a chance to better development in the future.