Pragmatic And Lexical Differentiation In Bilingual Child English Language Essay

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The study on bilingual children has gained more importance over the years and the elaborate experiments have yielded various results and different school of thoughts. It will be surprising to note that children grow-up bilingual from the age of 6 months. They are able to distinguish between speech in their native language and another language. Children are attracted towards the patterns of sound (prosody) and try to differentiate the utterances. The study on bilingual children is still elusive to the researchers as to how to conclude the mechanism by which the children understand that there are two languages in their input. All the more astonishing fact is that the children not only understand the existence of the two languages but also try to differentiate the appropriate language for the context (Pragmatic differentiation). They also try to find out the translation equivalents in a bilingual atmosphere (Lexical differentiation). But later when the children produce first sentences surprisingly, there is a low level of interaction between the two languages.

Early balanced simultaneous bilinguals have evidence of language separation and this separation is not evident at a gross Neuro-anatomical level, but at local level. Theory of resonance holds that both adults and children benefit from mnemonic associations between sounds and meanings. Work on this method with adults supports this view. But lack of such method for young children is a matter of concern. The result of case studies suggests that language differentiation does not occur instantaneously. It is possible to interpret that the child first understands that there are two pragmatic contexts and then learn equivalent words to be used differentially in the two contexts. (Nicoladis, 1998, pp.105-116).

"In the first stage the language development of the bilingual child seems to be like the language development of the monolingual child; In the second stage, the child distinguishes two different lexicons, but applies the same syntactic rules to both languages; In the third stage the child speaks two languages differentiated both in lexicon and syntax…" (Volterra and Taeschner, 1978). A list of 137 words was produced by Volterra's and Taeschner's children at the ages of 1:10 and 1:6. Reanalysis of data (Quay 1993) shows a fair number of translation equivalents.

The two most sought after questions in the language differentiation in bilingual development according to this journal are: Do bilingual children (at least initially) have differentiated linguistic systems or a unitary language system? Do the two systems interact in the course of acquisition or do they develop autonomously? (The notions of autonomy and interaction presuppose the existence of two systems).

So we are to conclude that more research should be done on bilingual children to shed more light on the theory of pragmatic and lexical differentiation. Almost all case studies conducted are invariably with a background of laboratory type experiments - a routine and monotonous study in a mundane atmosphere. Some advanced and novel ideas are to be implemented and tests to be conducted, which are different from the normal stereotype researches. Together with strong and weak points, we shall also discuss some critical opinions about this article.

INTRODUCTION:

Human brain is a remarkable piece of engineering, with no boundaries for its potential and performance. Its capacity to store innumerable information without encountering massive interference and transfer is appalling. The brain starts functioning right from the rudimentary stage. Hence we find children more receptive and eager to know new avenues of knowledge. A child is a wonderful and beautiful creation of Mother Nature, in its complete form. A child never stops learning and the process is unbelievably fast, till the age of 5. A child's response to sound is scientifically proved, even when it is lying in the dark chambers of mother's womb. So we can assume that a child starts learning well before it comes to the outside world. No wonder children become bilingual in the early stages of their life, and their adaptability to the situation is commendable.

While it is now commonly accepted that simultaneous bilingual children can differentiate their two languages from very early in development. It is still not very well understood bow they come to understand that there are two languages in their input. The purpose of this study was to examine, how a bilingual child might come to an understanding of the existence of two languages in terms of pragmatic differentiation (use of the appropriate language for the context) and lexical differentiation (use of translation equivalents).

How and when simultaneous bilingual children come to understand that there are two languages in their input is a matter of debate. One argument has been that bilingual children come to understand that there are two input languages, with great effort and rather late in the course of development (around three years of age). Researchers found evidence for a UNITARY LANGUAGE SYSTEM (ULS), (Genesee, 1989), that is, that bilingual children initially use their languages as if they were a single system, in terms of phonology, lexicon, syntax and pragmatics (i.e. speaking the appropriate language for an addressee). Several studies have now shown that as soon as there is evidence of syntax, bilingual children use the syntaxes differentially (Dopke, 1997; Meisel, 1990; Meisel & Miller, 1992, Paradis & Genesee, 1996). Thus in terms of phonology, lexicon and syntax, children seem to produce their two languages differentially from very early in development.

A BRIEF ON THE REVIEW:

Children's ability to show pragmatic differentiation, or the use of the appropriate language for the interlocutor, may not necessarily show the same developmental pattern as the other kinds of language differentiation. Even when parents in bilingual families adopt a one person-one language rule, their language use is rarely restricted entirely to one language (e.g. Nicoladis & Genesee, 1996). Furthermore the language choice required by the pragmatic context cannot necessarily be said to be either static or determined entirely by the parents, since the context can always be renegotiated by any or all participants (e.g., Lanza, 1992). In spite of these limitations in determining pragmatic differentiation, it is still possible to discuss when bilingual children start to show sensitivity to the predominance of use of one language by a particular person (e.g., Genesee, Nicoladis, & Paradis, 1995).

When bilingual children can use their two languages as if they were monolinguals may be much later than their initial sensitivity to the existence of two languages in different contexts. Some studies of bilingual children's pragmatic differentiation have indicated that there may be an initial stage in which children do not show sensitivity to the predominance of use of one language by one parent. Another case study was conducted to see if there might be an earlier stage during which children did not show pragmatic differentiation. Children initially used their languages in the proportion that would be expected by their dominant language. A more sensitive test of bilingual children's pragmatic differentiation is to see whether they use their translation equivalents with speakers of the language. Bilingual children around the age of 1:7 to 2:4, use almost all words for which they know translation equivalents appropriately (Quay, 1992, Nicoladis & Genesee, 1996). It also seems that there may be an initial stage during which pragmatic differentiation is not seen in bilingual children. It would be odd if children were born with an understanding that a different language should be addressed to different interlocutors. A comparative study of bilingual children's rate of translation equivalents, showed pro significant difference between the rates. This finding suggests an initial lack of lexical differentiation in spite of the existence of translation equivalents. The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between lexical differentiation and pragmatic differentiation to see if the former does indeed precede the latter in the course of bilingual development.

In another case study where bilingual mother & father (English and Portuguese) were observed, the parents spoke primarily one language with the child. Over a period of 6 months 98 per cent of the mother's utterances to the child were in English and 91 per cent of the father's utterances to the child were in Portuguese. The contexts observed in this study were fairly monolingual. It has been observed in bilingual families that the parent who speaks the child's non-dominant language adheres less strictly to the one person-one language rule than the parent who speaks the child's dominant language (Genesee, Nicoladis & Parakis, 1995: Nicoladis & Genesee, 1996). The parents spoke English to each other; English could be considered the language of the home. The fact that both parents used less than 100 per cent of their native language with the child means the pragmatic differences could not be a strict one person-one language rule. At best the child's goal could be to speak, primarily one language with each parent and perhaps use more code-mixed utterances with his bilingual father than with his monolingual mother. Thus we cannot expect a child to show strict language separation by parent, or even the use of primarily one language with each parent.

Results show that the child did not initially show lexical differentiation and then clearly showed in the later sessions. The child showed pragmatic differentiation to both his parents in later sessions only. For the purpose of detecting the pragmatic differentiation "appropriate" context was used to describe the child's use of English words to his mother and Portuguese words to his father. The inappropriate context was used to describe the child's use of English words to his father alone or Portuguese words to his mother alone. On the basis of this analysis, it is possible to interpret that the child first understands that there are two pragmatic contexts and then learn equivalent words to be used differentially in the two contexts.

ONE VS TWO SYSTEMS IN EARLY BILINGUAL SYNTAX: TWO VERSIONS OF THE QUESTION:

This paper identifies two versions of the question as to whether there is a single initial system in the syntax of developing bilinguals. Version1 asks whether there are early mixed utterances and if so attributes this to a single initial system. Version 2 asks whether the utterances containing words from one of the child's languages, exhibit the same syntax as the utterances containing words from the child's other language. Research on bilingual acquisition has been dominated by the question of whether the child has one or two systems from the very beginning of speech. This question is in relation to phonology, to the lexicon and to syntax. For some researchers the question is whether the child's early two-word utterances all consists of words taken from the same language i.e. all utterances in language A or language B? The existence of mixed utterances (where one word comes from each language) has been interpreted as indicating a single "mixed" syntax (Redlinger and Park, 1980). On the other hand some investigators have considered one vs two initial syntactic systems. Hypothesis: bilingual children may rely on different word learning mechanisms that can accommodate multiple lexical items for the same referent (The Disjunctive Syllogism - Halberda 2006). The question is whether the utterances containing words from language A exhibit the same syntax as that of language from B.

The version which attributes mixed utterances to a single initial system (version1) is not tenable because these mixed utterances are often due to paucity of lexical resources which prevents the child from producing the word belonging to the appropriate language. The second version (version 2) can only be answered once the child's utterances can be identified as language specific in the two languages and it is not possible before the emergence of morphological making.

VERSION 1:

Redlinger and Park (1980 p.351) argued for a single initial system on the basis of findings "high mixing rates" in German-English and German-Spanish data from children around two years old. Several arguments against this conclusion were put forward by other researchers. Others such as Bergman (1976) argue that the occurrence of mixed utterances do not necessarily provide evidence for a single initial system, since there may have been mixed utterances in the input. So the mixed utterances can be attributed to the limited lexical resources of a developing bilingual and thus should not be used as evidence for a single initial system.

VERSION 2:

Volterra and Taeschner (1975), acknowledged the existence of mixed utterances in their data but their argument for a single initial syntactic system was based on analyzing only non-mixed utterances. However Mersel (1989) argues that the commonalities in the use of two languages may be the result of transfer from the dominant language. De Houwer (1990) studied the morphology and syntax of a child acquiring Dutch and English (child was between 2:7) and (3:4) and according to her a bilingual child's morpho syntactic development proceeds along separate non-intersecting lines for each language.

WHEN DOES SYNTAX BEGIN?

There are various views on when syntax begins. Some consider that it can be found in holophrastic or single word utterances. Meisel (1994 p93) suggests that child may not have access to grammar at all at an early stage. We shall use the term mixed utterance for convenience to refer to a two word utterance consisting of one word from one language being acquired by the child juxtaposed with a word from the other language. The term mixed is not intended to presuppose that the child is actually mixing languages or being confused or mistaken in any way.

THE CASE STUDY:

The subject of the case study is a female child hereafter referred to as M. She was exposed to English and Spanish from birth. Mother was a native speaker of British English and father of Latin American Spanish. Spanish was the language used at home by both parents. However English was used with monolingual English speaking visitors. The child was addressed in English outside the home. Thus the child's input was differentiated according to location. The data came from two main sources, diary records of M from the age of 6 months and audio video recordings from the age of 1:3. Both the diary and the audio video data were used to establish a cumulative lexicon of all words known to the child and to collect the set of two word utterances used in the analysis is reported. All the one word and two word utterances in the recordings used were transcribed. Two-word utterances consisted of two words sharing the same into national contour, without a substantial pause between them. Mixed utterances can be attributed largely to limited lexical resources rather than to an initial syntactic system.

We shall show that when lexical resources allow, the appropriate word for the language context is in general selected. This provides some evidence for lexical, but not syntactic differentiation. We shall use the term mixed utterance for convenience to refer to a two-word utterance consisting of one word from one language being acquired by the child, juxtaposed with a word from the other language. The term mixed is not intended to presuppose that the child is actually mixing languages or being confused or mistaken in anyway.

ANALYSIS OF MIXED UTTERANCES:

Mixing is difficult to interpret because of :

differential exposure to language

unequal sampling of the child's languages

no control on language mode and interlocutor

Different definitions of mixing

Adults also "mix".

  To support the unitary-language system explanation, a person needs to find a systematic and protracted use of both languages in all context of communication (not only occasional or asymmetric substitutions. (Markman, E.M. and Wachtel, G.A. 1988)

In the case study it is interesting to note that the child "chose" to use the Spanish word, perhaps because of the Spanish language context. Where she had a pair of equivalents in English and Spanish, she tended to choose the Spanish item in the Spanish language context, where the child had a pair of equivalents in English and Spanish, she tended to choose the English item in the English language context. Overall, then, we have seen that mixed utterances in both the English and Spanish context can mostly be attributed to the lack of a contextually appropriate lexical item in the child's vocabulary. What the child seemed to be doing was selecting a contextually appropriate item where she could, and, where it was not available, using what lexical resources she had available. Thus the existence of mixed utterances as such cannot be taken as evidence for a single initial syntactic system.

We shall illustrate how language-specific utterances can be identified as morphological marking appears. In the case of early two word utterances, we did not consider it possible to identify the "language" of the utterance, given that lexical choices were limited. We suggest that this will appear in the form of language specific morphology. As the child gets beyond the earliest two word utterances, we can anticipate the appearance of morphological marking on nouns, verbs and adjectives. If English inflections are attached to English stems, and Spanish inflections to Spanish stems, then we can identify language-specific morphology. Only when this has been done can we investigate syntactic differentiation.

We can of course expect morphological marking to emerge gradually, and to be variable at the beginning. By the time the child is aged two we have clear evidence of language-specific morphology. The predicate-argument constructions found predominantly between the ages of 1:7 and 1:9; but as mentioned earlier, it is common for older constructions to survive after newer ones have emerged in child language. Over all however utterances produced after the age of 1:10 are lexically and morphologically language-specific. If we look more at utterances which appear from age two onwards, we can see that almost all can be clearly identified as English or Spanish and there are many clear instances of language-specific syntax. However, what if our data had been different and the morphology had turned out not necessarily to be language-specific? We shall consider this question by referring to other case studies. Klausen, Subritzky and Hayashi (1993) conducted a case-study of two Danish-English developing bilinguals. Recordings began when the children were under one year old and ended when they were about two years old. For those utterances which show "mixed" inflections, it would not be possible to identify the language of the utterance and so would not allow one to raise the question of one vs. two systems "for those utterances".

STRONG POINTS:

Bilingual children have a fairly stable rate of translation equivalents (about 30 per cent), soon after they begin talking.

More recent studies with careful empirical analysis have supported the reports that pragmatic differentiation can be seen around two years of age.

It would be odd if children were born with an understanding that a different language should be addressed to different interlocutors.

What may appear to be translation equivalents from the adult perspective may in fact be more like synonyms for the bilingual child.

On the basis of the case-study the child first understands that there are two pragmatic contexts and then learns equivalent words to be used differentially in the two contexts

Nicoladis 1997 claims that bilingual children's earliest "translation equivalents" may be , from their perspective, something like synonyms.

WEAK POINTS:

Studies supporting the ULS hypothesis were weak on several methodological grounds, including a failure to examine systematically children's language use in particular contexts.

Studies show that bilingual children translation equivalents early on could not say whether the rate of translation equivalents was theoretically meaningful.

Naturally when possible, it is desirable to have multiple estimates of dominance when studying bilingual children. However, besides vocabulary, there is little else to measure in a child in the one-word stage.

In these case studies, there is no way of knowing whether the results are applicable only to the child or whether they will prove to be generally true for bilingual children.

Nicoladis (1997) claims that bilingual children's earliest "translation equivalents" may be front their perspective, something like synonyms.

CRITICAL OPINION:

Almost all case studies conducted on bilingual children are routine, monotonous and laboratory type. The subjects are always bilingual parents with home atmosphere. Why should not the researchers conduct a study in different environments, with people like teachers, friends other than parents and record the findings.

All the tests in the case study are pre-determined, conducted in the normal way and the results declared with technical jargon. Researchers should contemplate on advance methods and techniques to be implemented in the analysis.

Children's age group 1 to 5 is the stage of "Quick to learn and Quick to forget". How many surveys are conducted to re-confirm that the same subjects retained the same level of bilingual capacity after they became adults?

For nearly a century, parents, educators, and scientists have, like Janus, been of two minds about the bilingual child, a phenomenon that is so pervasive that we have come to call it "the bilingual paradox" in our laboratory (Petitto et al. 2001).

This monolingual view of bilingualism has had a number of negative consequences (Grosjean 1985).

CONCLUSION:

While predicting that the child would show lexical differentiation before pragmatic differentiation, the subject child in fact first showed pragmatic differentiation (namely using more of a parent's language with that parent ) about 3 weeks earlier he showed lexical differentiation (a dramatic increase in the number of translation equivalents). These results may only apply to bilingual children whose input languages are separated by a clear context, such as person or place. A principle of contrast, an understanding that different words signal, different meanings, is a necessary prerequisite to language-learning. In any case further research on how bilingual children use various clues in understanding that there are two languages in their input is needed.

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