[lg policy] dissertation:One? ¿Dos? Drei!: A study of code switching in child trilingualism

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 20 15:12:23 UTC 2010

One? ¿Dos? Drei!: A study of code switching in child trilingualism

This issue contains Spanish question marks.

Institution: University of Iowa
Program: Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Elena Davidiak

Dissertation Title: One? ¿Dos? Drei!: A study of code switching in
child trilingualism

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            German, Standard (deu)
                            Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Mercedes Niño-Murcia
Jason Rothman

Dissertation Abstract:

This longitudinal study focuses on the language production of two siblings,
aged 6 and 9 at the beginning of the data collection period, who have been
brought up in a bilingual family in New York. The parents of the two girls
are native speakers of German and Spanish, and English for them is the
language of education and the larger community. The study specifically
examines the phenomenon of code switching, or transitioning between
languages, either within one sentence or within one speech situation. I
examine the extent to which these switches are caused by deficiencies in
vocabulary in a specific language, and seek to identify
other possible causes for such transitions. The data collected mainly
through recording and transcription of the children's speech within the
family home allowed me to identify a number of sociopragmatic functions
most commonly fulfilled by producing mixed utterances, such as referring to
a specific person, including or excluding someone from the conversation,
changing the interlocutor or the topic or explaining or insisting on a
certain idea. Lexical need was also an important cause of code switching,
although it did not prevail over the other categories. The distribution in
the amount and function of code switches turned out to be in a dynamic
state, with both quantitative and qualitative changes observed throughout
the study period. The age difference between the children and the
relationship between the younger and elder sibling were additional factors
which influenced their language choice. I conclude that code switching,
especially in the case of child speech, should be considered a fluid and
multifaceted phenomenon which represents the speaker's role in the
conversation and reflects multiple social and pragmatic functions; while
elements of two (or more) languages are often combined for purely lexical
reasons, this is only one aspect of trilingual code switching, which allows
the speaker, consciously or not, to explore the three languages as ways of
establishing his or her personality and looking at reality both within and
outside the means of each particular language.


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