Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITORS: Peggy McCardle and Erika Hoff TITLE: Childhood Bilingualism SUBTITLE: Research On Infancy through School Age SERIES: Child Language and Child Development 7 PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters Ltd. YEAR: 2006
Magdalena Fialkowska, Surrey Morphology Group, University of Surrey, Surrey, UK
The book under review features a selection of papers on childhood bilingualism by researchers from Canada and the United States. It is a product of a workshop on childhood bilingualism convened in Washington, DC in April 2004, sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of English Language Acquisition and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services of the US Department of Education. The goal of this workshop was to discuss the issue of bilingual development in general, and the questions of children's bilingual language learning experiences, children's literacy and the relation of educational programs to academic outcomes in children raised in bilingual environments. In a nutshell, the aim of this volume is to describe the state of research conducted in the area of childhood bilingualism and to propose a research agenda for the future.
The book is divided into 11 chapters in five thematic sections:
Part 1: Processing Two Languages Chapter 1: Bilingual Speech Processing in Infants and Adults Chapter 2: When Infants Hear Two Languages: Interpreting Research Chapter 3: The Onset of Word Form Recognition in One Language and in Two
Part 2: Learning Two Languages Chapter 4: Bilingual First Language Acquisition in Perspective Chapter 5: Social Factors in Bilingual Development: The Miami Experience
Part 3: Literacy in Two Languages Chapter 6: Developing Literacy in English-language Learners: An Examination of the Impact of English-only Versus Bilingual Instruction Chapter 7: Bilingualism at School: Effect on the Acquisition of Literacy
Part 4: Perspectives on Childhood Bilingualism from Related Fields Chapter 8: Adult Bilingualism and Bilingual Development Chapter 9: Finding the Points of Contact: Language Acquisition in Children Raised in Monolingual, Bilingual and Multilingual Environments
Part 5: Closing Comments Chapter 10: Multiple Perspectives on Research on Childhood Bilingualism Chapter 11: An Agenda for Research on Childhood Bilingualism
Chapter 1, by Janet F. Werker, Whitney M. Weikum and Katherine A. Yoshida, offers a review of bilingual acquisition research and attempts to find out whether bilingual infants show the same or different trajectories for phonological acquisition as do monolingual ones. The authors address the question of phonological processing in bilinguals, as they strongly believe that the understanding of how speech develops and is processed should be based on the results of studies examining mostly bilingual speakers. Of interest to the authors is also whether adult bilinguals perceive speech similarly or differently to monolinguals. A set of tools used by Werker and her colleagues consists of a questionnaire developed by Alain Desrochers (2003) to assess adult language dominance, and a parent report scale designed by Bosch and Sebastián-Gallés (1997) to ensure that the bilingual infants have had relatively equal exposure to each of their languages. Throughout the whole chapter Werker and her colleagues refer to those who acquired their two languages from and an early age as ''bilingual first language'' learners. This informative analysis tells us about monolingual and bilingual adult phonetic perception as well as bilingual infant phonetic perception. Those brief comparative analyses show that perception of phonetic continua is language specific, and that adults have difficulty in discriminating any new phonetic differences absent from their native L1. As to bilingual infants, the data suggests that there may be more that one pattern to phonetic perception. Moreover, the native language phonetic categories guide word learning once they infants are able to access phonetic detail. In general, the studies described by Werker and her colleagues confirm that bilingual acquisition influences all aspects of speech processing, and that the developmental trajectory is different for bilinguals, which makes bilingual language processing unique. For reliable results in the future, the authors recommend investigating phonological use from the functional perspective of bilingual speakers, as well as determining factors such as maternal language and the amount of exposure. They also advocate determining the conditions under which the phonetic system of the two languages can be equally dominant.
In Chapter 2, Anne Fernald attempts to contrast three major traditions in basic research on early language development. Her comparative analysis is made along two key dimensions: how they these traditions characterise and measure language competence at different ages, and the extent to which each is concerned with features of the early language development. The first and oldest paradigm (Brown, 1973) is mostly observational in nature and its goal is to investigate the influence of various aspects of speech on the child's developing linguistic competence. The second paradigm (Woodward, 1997) uses experimental methods to examine the way that children understand novel words. The measure of child's competence is mostly defined in terms of a forced-choice behaviour by the child. Finally, infant speech perception approach (Jusczyk 1997; Kuhl 2000) investigates the development of infants' sensitivity to regularities in the ambient language(s). Fernald underlines strong points as well as weaknesses in these methods, e.g., the experimental way is high in experimental control, but the issue of language input is rarely relevant, while in the infant speech perception approach, the relation between the child's phonological knowledge and their performance is not straightforward due to small mean differences in attention to one stimulus type over another. What also emerges from this chapter is a discrepancy between experiments with monolingual and bilingual infants. Bilingual children seem to be delayed relative to monolingual ones, who can discriminate English speech contrast earlier than BFL learners. Fernald's prediction was that since monolingual infants make a 'neural commitment' to the phonological system of their native language, bilingual children would show specialization in two different languages. She attempts to interpret discrepant results suggesting that bilingual infants hear less speech in either language, and stresses that any interpretations of these results must be based on the question of how linguistic competence is operationalised in a given experimental design, as well as the question of how adequately early language experience is characterized and assessed. By and large, this chapter shows that typically developing infants learn to map out the phonological categories of the ambient language over the 1st year, and that BFLA infants should not be treated as two monolinguals in one. It is not surprising they are performing differently from monolinguals, if they have to form much broader categories in their linguistic system.
Chapter 3 closes the first part of the book. Marilyn M. Wihman, Jarrad A.G. Lum, Guillaume Thierry, Satsuki Nakai and Tamar Keren-Portnoy illustrate their findings and compare them with earlier studies, focusing on determining the infants' age of onset of word form recognition in the absence of experimental training or contextual support. Two pioneering studies to investigate this question are presented. They have been conducted by Hallé and Boysson-Bardies (1994) with use of the Preferential Head-Turn Paradigm (HT), and by Thierry et al (2003), who used the Event Related Potentials technique (ERP). In their own study, Wihman and her colleagues pursue the same question using HT and ERP in parallel with each infant. In addition, they try to determine the role played by bilingualism on the timing of the onset of word form recognition. They tested monolingual English- and Welsh-learning infants, and English-Welsh bilingual infants. New stimuli were developed for both languages, aiming at a similar selection of familiar words. Their overall findings indicate that at 12 months of age monolingual infants show a decline in the familiarity effect, which Vihman and colleagues interpret as a loss of infants' interest in word form as they are expecting words to convey meaning. In contrast to the HT findings, ERP procedure did not reveal any significant effect of word familiarity in bilingual infants. Moreover, bilingual infants' response tended to be delayed relative to the monolingual children.
Chapter 4, by Fred Genesee, opens a section on learning two languages. The author first provides a brief summary of BFLA studies, which started in 1913 with Ronjat's research, through Leopold's work in 1939-49, till the 1980s when BFLA began to flourish (e.g., Meisel's, De Houwer's or Lanza's work). We learn that research on BLFA can not only make a unique contribution to our understanding of the human language faculty, but also have implications for our conceptualization of the neuro-cognitive architecture of the human mind. There follows a brief account of areas investigated by BFLA researchers: morphosyntax, lexicon and phonological development. In the area of morphosyntax, the key questions are the precise pattern of development of the two languages and its time course, as well as language differentiation. Children mastering two languages simultaneously acquire language-specific morphosyntactic properties of the target languages corresponding to monolingual patterns. The lexical development of BLF learners has not been as broadly described as morphosyntactic development. Research in this field (Pearson 1993; Pearson 1995) has shown that although bilingual children often score lower on standardized tests of vocabulary when each language is considered separately, the total conceptual vocabulary of those children equals that of the monolinguals. Findings in the area of phonological development are regarded tentative due to scarcity of studies as well as ''the diversity of issues examined'' (p. 50). Following a definition of intra- and inter-utterance mixing, the author compares grammatical and functional properties of code-mixing in child speech and discusses grammatical constraints in bilingual child code-mixing. Genesee claims that evidence of such constraints would provide significant insights into child's linguistic capacity and language learning, and would mean that they ''emerge with the advent of grammatical competence'' (p. 52). Most importantly, Genesee stresses that bilingual child code-mixing is a communicative resource for children, and not a sign of their confusion. The last section of this paper discusses bilingual communicative competence, and some additional challenges that bilingual children have to face. In the concluding section the author welcomes studies on the different age of onset of dual language exposure and the relationship between the input and learning outcomes.
Rebecca E. Eilers, Barbara Zurer Pearson and Alan B. Cobo-Lewis begin Chapter 5 with a picture of the Hispanic community in Miami. The authors look briefly at types of bilingual development, and language alternatives for immigrants. They elaborate on the so-called ''three-generation rule'', according to which adults remain monolingual in their native language, their children become fluently bilingual, and their grandchildren are largely monolingual English speakers. In the brief summary of two previous studies, one by Lambert and Taylor (1996) and the other by Hakuta and D'Andrea (1992), who adopted the concept of ''Immigration Depth'', the authors stress the importance of three major variables to be taken into account: generation (depth), social class and language attitudes. Their own study is focused around the following question: how often and in what circumstances is the speakers' abstract choice of language decided in favour of the minority language? Eilers and her colleagues conducted their research in various age groups trying to find evidence of Spanish language maintenance at higher immigration 'depth'. They look at language attitudes, language choice, language use among bilinguals, perceptions of language use and proficiency in two languages. Their findings show that Spanish is losing in its battle with English. Only one family completed the study providing equal exposure to both languages, although all of them had assured the researchers they would do so. Bilingualism is a bridge between communities, but it declines once more people become bilingual - they usually choose to speak English. This chapter also shows that the two-way schools do not offer any threat to English proficiency, so the greatest threat to the maintenance of Spanish in Miami is the fact that this language is not officially perceived as being under threat.
Chapter 6, by Diane August, Margarita Calderón, María Carlo and Michelle Nuttall, starts a section concerned with literacy in two languages. Its aim is to examine the effect of the language of instruction on Broad Reading outcomes for three groups of Spanish-speaking students: those instructed only in English, only in Spanish and those instructed bilingually. The authors debate which model is most effective, and mention a series of reviews over the past 25 years, which have reached different conclusions. Their study aims at improving the weaknesses that characterize previous research. In order to do so, the authors have drawn students from the same schools and neighbourhoods, ensuring that they had been in the same instructional group since they had begun school. August and her colleagues hypothesize that students instructed bilingually or only in Spanish would outperform those instructed in English on measures of Spanish reading at the end of grade 5, and vice versa. The results show that Spanish-speaking children achieved significantly different reading outcomes depending on the language of instruction. If the instruction in Spanish was followed by instruction in English, Spanish-speaking children benefited more. They perform both in Spanish and English equally well as students instructed only in English or only in Spanish.
In Chapter 7, Ellen Bialystok asks the following questions: is the process of acquiring literacy skills different for bilingual children than for monolinguals specifically because they are bilingual? What is the relation between the progress in the acquisition of literacy in each of the two languages for bilingual children? According to Bialystok, the answers to these two questions may reveal how literacy is related to other cognitive or linguistic skills. The author underlines that the manner in which bilingualism influences each skill is different. Since bilingualism has already been shown to influence acquisition of each component, Bialystok stresses that it may be responsible for the alternations of the course of development for bilingual children. Her aim is also to help us understand the role that bilingualism plays in becoming literate. It becomes clear that the three key factors - oral proficiency, development of print concepts and metalinguistic awareness - make different predictions for the role of bilingualism in learning to read. Bialystok's analysis is based on three studies. The first aims at establishing the role of bilingualism in children's becoming literate by determining the role of language and script differences that intervene in this relation. In the second one Bialystok examines the development of reading and phonological awareness in bilingual children whose two languages are based on different systems. Finally, the third study considers the question whether the acquisition of literacy would also be affected for children who were second-language learners. Each of the studies shows that exposure to two languages and learning to read in two languages influenced the manner in which the children were acquiring literacy skills in English. The children learning two alphabetic languages profited particularly, while bilingual English-Chinese children revealed phonological awareness across languages. Bialystok's main conclusion is that the answer to the question whether or not bilingualism affects children's acquisition of literacy is heavily influenced by various circumstances.
Chapter 8, unlike the preceding ones, is not based on statistical data. It opens a section concerned with the perspectives on childhood bilingualism seen from other fields. Judith F. Kroll discusses three main issues. Firstly, she elaborates on the ways adult bilinguals negotiate parallel activity and interactions of their two languages. We learn about studies investigating the nonselectivity of language processing, when adult bilinguals have little control over the process of activation of their two languages, and when there is a high degree of permeability across language boundaries. Next, Kroll elaborates on the cognitive consequences of cross-language activation, one of which is superior attentional control for young bilingual children and elderly bilingual adults. Finally, Kroll considers phonological and semantic factors leading to constraints on bilingual language performance.
In Chapter 9, Sandra Waxman looks at the findings emerging from basic psychological research on early word learning and conceptual organization in infants and young children acquiring a single language. She then identifies points of contact for research on acquisition from monolingual, bilingual and multilingual perspectives. Waxman's concern is the infants' ability to discover grammatical forms represented in their language, and how they learn to map these forms to meaning. She presents two experiments: one based on a novelty-preference task, and the other on identifying objects and mapping them to object categories. We learn that the link between nouns and object categories, which emerge early, may be universal, while the specific link between adjectives and their meaning, which emerges later, may vary systematically as a function of the structure of a given language. As to the points of contact, Waxman stresses the importance of collating information on bilingual and multilingual environments, as well as posing precise questions. She draws our attention to the fact that depending on whether the L1-L2 mismatches occur in the semantic, morphological or syntactic system, the relation between two languages can be a source of significant issues for child language research. Finally, Waxman suggests launching a full and integrated research agenda focused on language acquisition in bilingual and multilingual children in order to foster collaboration between researchers and clinicians. Such an agenda may result in an in-depth exploration of the linguistic and conceptual consequences of acquiring more than one language.
Chapter 10 and 11 constitute the closing section of the book. First, Martha Crago looks at the implications for multiple perspectives emerging from the discussion by the researchers from Canada and the US brought together in this volume. She tries to capture the essence of the exchange among the assembled researchers by addressing issues of bilingual research that cut across various domains, e.g., national policies, methodologies, or theoretical and disciplinary contributions. In conclusion, Crago summarizes the aims of this volume, highlights the significance of studies on bilingual language acquisition, and explains the ways to create links between fields investigating this area, stressing the fact that the future training of researchers needs to expose them to the links between various theoretical, methodological and disciplinary perspectives. In the final chapter, the editors, i.e. Peggy McCardle and Erika Hoff provide a list of issues that need to be investigated in the research on childhood bilingualism. We need to adopt a broad approach in order to document the forms that environmental bilingualism takes, as well as the processes shaping bilingual children's development. There is also a great need not only for descriptive work to address the social, cultural and linguistic contexts of bilingual development, but also for experimental work to determine the most effective methods of formal language and literacy instructions for bilingual and English language learners students. Additionally, better assessment instruments for oral language production and comprehension should be developed and integrated with innovative research design and methodology. The final outcome of this volume is far from definitive, but the discussion sheds interesting light on the significance of the research in bilingual and multilingual language development.
This small collection will be a valuable source of information for scholars and students working in the area of bilingualism and bilingual child language acquisition. The wealth of information offered in this volume requires however some background in statistics, since many articles are based on statistical data analysis. Even though some fragments may seem easy and pleasurable to read, some sections consist of pure statistical data analysis. Moreover, the discussion and implications of the studies can be at times quite challenging and can require more background knowledge about the subject. Of great help in this book is the fact that all the contributors briefly summarize the state of art in the given area, which enhances the reader's orientation in the field and gives a good starting point for a more thorough analysis. Each article is rich in questions, suggestions and ideas, which taken together show how much remains to be done in the field of bilingual child language acquisition in order to place all the missing pieces of information in correct places. The editing of this volume is generally careful, with very few spelling errors.
A few inconsistencies have been found in the editing of the references, e.g., ''Fledge 1996'', given in the references as ''Feldge 1986'' (P. 6) , or ''Pearson 1999'' (p. 63) is missing from the references. Other inconsistencies include, e.g., the statement ''... newborns (...) discriminate languages from two different rhythmical classes (e.g., stress vs. syllable timed languages such as French vs. English...''), which should in fact be ''English vs. French'' (P. 10).
A welcome addition to the book would be a glossary of acronyms used in the chapters. This would allow readers to choose an article they would like to read without the fear that something has been explained earlier, particularly when new acronyms are introduced in a given paper, and others are being referred to, including those from other papers in the volume.
Generally, this book refers to the bilingual situation in Canada and the USA, which may narrow down the readership. This is not a guidebook for parents who raise their children bilingually and need practical advice on how to do it effectively. This volume is aimed instead researchers and students investigating bilingual language development and seeking professionally provided data and discussion.
To conclude, this collection will be a valuable source of information to anyone who wants to update their knowledge on bilingual language acquisition and related topics, such as language processing in bilingual infants, literacy in two languages, adult bilingual development and multilingual environments.
Bosch, L. - N. Sebastián-Gallés 1997. Infant bilingual language questionnaire. Unpublished instrument.: Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
Brown, R. 1973. A First Language: The Early Stages. London: George Allen & Unwin.
Desrochers, Alain. 2003. Fluency assessment questionnaire for English-French bilinguals. Unpublished instrument: Cognitive Psychology Laboratory, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Hakuta, K. - D. D'Andrea. 1992. Some properties of bilingual maintenance and loss in Mexican background high-school students Applied Linguistics 13.72-99.
Hallé, P. - B. de Boysson-Bardies 1994. Emergence of an early lexicon: Infants' recognition of words. Infant Behaviour and development, 17.119-29.
Jusczyk, P. W. 1997. The Discovery of Spoken Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kuhl, P.K. . 1997. A new view of language acquisition. Paper presented at Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Lambert, W. E. - D. M. Taylor 1996. Language in the lives of ethnic minorities: Cuban-American families in Miami. Applied Linguistics, 17.477-500.
Pearson, B. Z. - S. C. Fernández - D. K. Oller. 1995. Cross-language synonyms in the lexicon of bilingual infants: One language or two? Journal of Child Language, 22.345-68.
Pearson, B. Z. - S. C. Fernández - D. K. Oller 1993. Lexical development in bilingual infants and toddlers: Comparison to monolingual norms. Language Learning, 43.93-120.
Thierry, G. - M. Vihman - M. Roberts. 2003. Familiar words capture the attention of 11-month-olds in less then 250 ms. Neuroreport, 14.2307-10.
Woodward, A. - E.M. Markman. 1997. Early word learning Handbook of Child Psychology, ed. by W. Damion - D. Kuhn - R. Sieger. New York: Wiley.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Magdalena Fialkowska is a Ph.D. student in the Surrey Morphology Group at the University of Surrey, UK. She is working on the early development of gender system in the speech of Polish-English bilingual children. Her project is focused on the cross-linguistic interference in BFLA.