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Review of  Linguistic Awareness in Multilinguals

Reviewer: Anastassia Zabrodskaja
Book Title: Linguistic Awareness in Multilinguals
Book Author: Ulrike Jessner
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 18.536

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AUTHOR: Jessner, Ulrike
TITLE: Linguistic Awareness in Multilinguals
SUBTITLE: English as a Third Language
PUBLISHER: Edinburgh University Press
YEAR: 2006

Anastassia Zabrodskaja, Department of Estonian Philology, Tallinn
University (Estonia)


The purpose of this book is to explore links between research in third
language acquisition and trilingualism, cognitive aspects of language
acquisition and metalinguistic awareness. All this is done on the basis of
English as one of the languages in a multilingual context. The book
comprises six chapters.

The first chapter of the book, Multilingualism with English, concentrates
on the sociolinguistic aspects of multilingualism, which are seen to
develop in parallel with the changing status of English. Following
Hoffmann's (2000) approach the author focuses on 'multilingualism with
English'. The interdependency between linguistic conditions on the societal
level and the individual use and knowledge of languages is emphasized. As a
widely used lingua franca English is developing distinct characteristics.
The essential research question of when a speaker can be called
multilingual is discussed.

The second chapter, Learning and using a third language, analyzes the
psycholinguistic aspects of the TLA (third language acquisition). Jessner
specifies differences between the processes of SLA and TLA. She
demonstrates models of multilingualism that exemplify language awareness
and language choices in a multilingual individual. De Bot (1992, 2004)
presents a bilingual production model on the basis of Levelt's (1989)
speech processing model created for monolinguals, stating that there is no
real need for developing a specific model for multilingual processing.
Taking Levelt's model into account Clyne (2003) integrates sociolinguistic
and social psychological dimensions such as the speaker's multiple identity
into a single framework and presents a model of plurilingual processing.
Green (1986, 1998) reveals that bilinguals do not switch one of their
languages on or off but that their languages show different levels of
activation. Grosjean (1998, 2001) proposes a language mode continuum that
focuses on the variability of speech situations. Following dynamics systems
theory (DST), the crude formula of multilingual proficiency is used in
dynamic model of multilingualism (DMM) developed by Herdina and Jessner (2002):

LS1 + LS2 + LS3 + LSN + CLIN + M = MP

LS: language system
CLIN: cross-linguistic interaction
M: M(ultilingualism)-factor
MP: multilingual proficiency

As part of the M-factor in DMM, third language learners develop an enhanced
level of metalinguistic awareness and metacognitive strategies, which
considerably contribute to the quality of CLIN in multilinguals.

The third chapter, ''On the nature of linguistic awareness,'' provides a
state-of-the-art description of research on metalinguistic awareness
including a presentation of the functions and roles that metalinguistic
awareness in multilingual speech and learning can fulfil. First of all, a
history of research on metalinguistic awareness in bilinguals is presented.
Providing a comprehensive overview of research on metalinguistic awareness,
Jessner states that the terminology used in this growing area of research
on multilingualism is rather confusing (I would suggest that the question
of confusing terminology is relevant in code-switching research as well,
see Milroy and Muysken 1995; Pfaff 1997; Clyne 2003 for a discussion). The
author suggests that linguistic awareness might also be studied from the
point of view of qualitative changes in learning processes. It plays a
decisive role in monitoring and cross-linguistic interaction in
multilinguals, which contribute to the understanding of multilingual
proficiency. Monitoring is described as keeping track of how the learning
process is going and taking appropriate measures to deal with problems
interfering with the process (Flavell 1981: 272).

The fourth chapter, ''Exploring linguistic awareness in third language use,''
aims to provide evidence of linguistic awareness as an essential component
of multilingual proficiency. The author deals with multilingual studies of
language mixing resulting from linguistic search in various settings. The
methodology of introspection is described. Jessner presents a study carried
at Innsbruck University with Italian-German bilingual students from South
Tyrol studying English as their third language. The research method was
introspection in the form of thinking-aloud protocols (TAPs), that is, the
testees were asked to articulate aloud all their thoughts during the
writing performance without the use of a dictionary. The thoughts were
tape-recorded, transcribed and analyzed. The structure of this
investigation was based on a study of academic writing in a second language
(Cumming 1988). The aim of the Tyrol study is to explore the relationship
between cross-linguistic interaction and linguistic awareness in the use of
multilingual compensatory strategies. Strategies served to compensate for
lexical insecurity or for a total lack of target language knowledge or were
employed in the search for alternatives. The switches to German and Italian
varied in length from one word to whole sentences. A detailed analysis of
examples is presented as well. The chapter ends with considerations on
future research.

In the fifth chapter, ''Crystallizing linguistic awareness in multilingual
education,'' research on linguistic awareness in multilingual education is
presented. Jessner notices that in contrast to bilingual education, third
language learning at school has received little attention so far. A growing
number of studies of the linguistic behaviour of multilinguals clearly give
evidence of cross-lexical search and thus represent an argument against
total separation or independence of languages in multilingual processing.
While from the 1970s to 1980s the mother tongue was assumed to exert only
negative influence, recent studies have shown the facilitative role of
transfer in the language learning process. Language awareness begins with
the teacher (James and Garrett 1991: 121). But making language learners
aware of their own metacognitive knowledge is also an essential aim of
multilingual education ('how to learn to learn a language'). Concentrating
on new ways of looking at English as part of a developing multilingual
system in the language learner, Jessner underlines some innovative didactic
approaches to teaching in the multilingual classroom. She stresses that
teaching English as L3 is not teaching English as L2. The differences
between native and non-native teachers of English are also discussed.
Jessner concludes that every English teacher potentially and necessarily
needs to function as a forerunner and founder of multilingualism.

In the sixth chapter, Envoi, Jessner emphasizes the need of restructuring
and expanding language awareness definitions and scope. The fundamental
reframing of linguistics towards multilingual norms is also required.


The study is an excellent introduction into linguistic awareness research
and into the complexities of multilingualism in general. Trilingualism has
become a growth area in research that has sociolinguistic,
psycholinguistic, social and cultural identity, political and educational
dimensions (Cenoz and Jessner 2000; Hoffmann and Ytsma 2004). Jessner's
study on trilingualism analyzes the current and future place of English as
the most important language of wider communication.

Previous research on cross-linguistic influence in foreign language
acquisition has primarily focused on the influence of a native language on
the acquisition of a second language. Jessner's book compares second and
third language acquisition as processes that are closely related to each
other. In a review of research on trilingualism, Cenoz and Genesee (1998:
20) rightly conclude that 'bilingualism does not hinder the acquisition of
an additional language and, to the contrary, in most cases bilingualism
favours the acquisition of a third language'. Jessner covers much new
ground in the nature of linguistic awareness and explores linguistic
awareness in third language use. Some questions for future research are
also underlined. The relevant, clear and engaging examples, figures and
tables make the issues discussed very accessible. The book would be an
excellent source for introducing bilingual students to the field of
multilingualism and multilingual awareness on multilinguals.

The book is reader-friendly: each chapter begins with an overview of the
following discussion; the results of analysis are explicitly stated; the
main concepts are sufficiently recounted and restated throughout the book.
The formatting of the book is clear and well-organized and the data are
clearly laid out and attractive to the reader. Throughout the book,
terminology specific to studies on third language studies is explained
where used, which makes the book very accessible for students.

There is no doubt that the aims of this book have been fully accomplished
and that its overall quality makes it worth reading. Engaging as it is,
_Linguistic Awareness in Multilinguals_ opens the door of the fascinating
area of multilingualism to scholars of multilingualism as well as students.


Cenoz, Jasone & Fred Genesee (1998). Psycholinguistic perspectives on
multilingualism and multilingual education. In Beyond Bilingualism:
Multilingualism and Multilingual Education, ed. by Jasone Cenoz & Fred
Genesee. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 16–32.

Cenoz, Jasone & Ulrike Jessner (eds.) (2000). English in Europe: The
Acquisition of a Third Language. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Clyne, Michael (2003). Dynamics of Language Contact. English and Immigrant
Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cumming, Alister (1988). Writing expertise and second language proficiency
in ESL writing performance. Doctoral thesis submitted to the University of

De Bot, Kees (1992). A bilingual production model: Levelt's ''Speaking''
model adapted. Applied Linguistics 13, 1–24.

De Bot, Kees (2004). The multilingual lexicon: modelling selection and
control. International Journal of Multilingualism I/I, 17–32.

Flavell, John (1981). Cognitive monitoring. In Children's Oral
Communication Skills, ed. by W. Patrick Dickson. New York: Academic Press,

Green, David (1986). Control, activation and resource: a framework and a
model for the control of speech bilinguals. – Brain and Language 27, 210–223.

Green, David (1998). Mental control of the bilingual lexico-semantic
system. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition I, 67–81.

Grosjean, François (1982). Life with Two Languages. An introduction to
Bilingualism. Cambridge, Mass., and London, England: Harvard University.

Grosjean, François (1998). Studying bilinguals: Methodological and
conceptual issues. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition I, 131–149.

Grosjean, François (2001). The bilingual's language modes. In One Mind, Two
Languages: Bilingual Language Processing, ed. By Janet Nicol. Oxford:
Blackwell, 1–25.

Herdina, Philip & Ulrike Jessner (2002). A Dynamic Model of
Multilingualism: Changing the Psycholinguistic Perspective. Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters.

Hoffmann, Charlotte (2000). The spread of English and the growth of
multilingualism with English in Europe. In English in Europe: The
Acquisition of a Third Language, ed. by Jasone Cenoz & Ulrike Jessner.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 1–21.

Hoffmann, Charlotte & Jehannes Ytsma (2004). Trilingualism in Family,
School and Community. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

James, Carl & Peter Garrett (eds.) (1991). Language Awareness in the
Classroom. London: Longman.

Levelt, Willem (1989). Speaking: From Intention to Articulation. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.

Milroy, Lesley & Pieter Muysken (1995). Introduction: code-switching and
bilingualism research. In One Speaker, Two Languages: Cross-Disciplinary
Perspectives on Code-Switching, ed. by Lesley Milroy & Pieter Muysken.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–14.

Pfaff, Carol (1997). Contacts and conflicts: perspectives from
code-switching research. In Language Choices. Conditions, Constraints and
Consequences, ed. by Martin Pütz. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins,

"The issues discussed in Jessner's book are very close to my heart. The
metaphor "Life with Two Languages" (Grosjean 1982) became a part of my life
when I began my studies at the university. Using Estonian and Russian was
suddenly my everyday reality. English is my third language, acquired in the
school and university academic context. Choosing different languages for
different purposes and code-switching have all been part of my daily
language use."

Anastassia Zabrodskaja, M.A., is a researcher at the Department of Estonian
Philology at Tallinn University, Estonia. She received her M.A. in Estonian
Philology from Tallinn University in 2005. She is a second-year doctoral
student in linguistics. Her scholarly interests comprise code-switching,
language choice patterns among L2 speakers, cross-linguistic influence in SLA.

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