Frequency and function of codeswitching among German-English bilingual preschool children in Cape Town

Terveen, Insa Christine (2013-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The study reported on in this thesis focuses on six English-German bilingual preschool children in Cape Town. The thesis is interested in understanding the relation between codeswitching (the frequency, type and function thereof) in bilingual children and the duration of exposure that they have had to each of their languages. During the course of my training as a teacher, I have noticed differences in the codeswitching behaviour of different bilingual children. Most children seemed to switch between their two languages effortlessly. However, some children seemed to switch between codes more often than others, which may be a consequence of the duration of language exposure. It is therefore possible that bilingual children with different language backgrounds show differences in the frequency, type and function of their codeswitching behaviour. This thesis aims to investigate (i) the amount of codeswitching that is employed by bilingual children with different language backgrounds, (ii) the type of codeswitching that bilingual children employ and (iii) the function of the use of codeswitching by these children. The participants of the study were 5- and 6-year-olds who attend the German preschool in Cape Town, which is a predominantly German-speaking institution. Children who attend the school have a range of different proficiency levels in German and in English; they have acquired the two languages either simultaneously or successively. The language background, namely the duration of language exposure to both languages, was analysed with the help of parental questionnaires. In addition, the children themselves were asked to visually represent a biographic image of their language proficiency and their language preferences by colouring in a basic outline of a human body. By means of this analysis, the participants were categorised according to their type of bilingual acquisition and the input they receive at home and in other environments. In order to investigate whether children of different language types show differences in the frequency, type and function of their codeswitching behaviour, codeswitching behaviour in both formal and informal settings were audio recorded. The recordings were transcribed and annotated for frequency of switches. All instances of codeswitching found in the data were then classified based on the differentiation between intersentential codeswitching and intrasentential (including intraword) codeswitching. The qualitative analysis of the data was carried out in terms of Poplack‟s (1980) grammatical constraints. The codeswitches that were found in the data were further analysed according to the function of their use. The findings of the analysis were then categorised in relation to the type of bilingual exposure of the individual participants. The results have shown that there is indeed a difference in the codeswitching behaviour of children with different language backgrounds. Participants who have had less German input switched more often to their dominant language, namely English, than participants who have been exposed to equal input in both languages or those who speak German as mother tongue. Data analysis further showed that successive bilinguals not only switch more frequently but also make use of codeswitching (rather than other discourse strategies) in order to fill lexical gaps.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die studie waaroor daar in hierdie tesis verslag gelewer word, fokus op ses Engels-Duits tweetalige voorskoolse kinders in Kaapstad. In die tesis wou daar vasgestel word wat die verhouding is tussen kodewisseling (die frekwensie, tipe en funksie daarvan) in tweetalige kinders en die duur van die blootstelling wat hulle aan elk van hulle tale gehad het. Tydens my onderwysopleiding het ek opgelet dat daar verskille bestaan in die kodewisselingsgedrag van verskillende tweetalige kinders. Die meeste kinders blyk moeiteloos tussen hul twee tale te wissel. Sommige kinders blyk egter meer dikwels as ander tussen die tale te wissel, wat „n gevolg mag wees van die duur van taalblootstelling. Dit is daarom moontlik dat tweetalige kinders van verskillende taalagtergronde verskille toon in die frekwensie, tipe en funksie van hul kodewisselingsgedrag. Die doel van die tesis was om die volgende te ondersoek: (i) die hoeveelheid kodewisseling wat deur tweetalige kinders van verskillende taalagtergronde gebruik word, (ii) die tipe kodewisseling waarvan deelnemers gebruik maak, en (iii) die funksie van die gebruik van kodewisseling deur hierdie kinders. Die deelnemers aan die studie was 5- en 6-jariges wat 'n Duitse kleuterskool in Kaapstad bygewoon het. Die skool is 'n oorwegend Duitssprekende instelling. Kinders wat die skool bywoon, toon 'n wye reeks vaardigheidsvlakke in Duits en in Engels; hulle het die twee tale óf gelyktydig óf opeenvolgend verwerf. Die taalagtergrond, naamlik die duur van blootstelling aan beide tale, is met behulp van 'n ouervraelys geanaliseer. Die kinders self is gevra om 'n biografiese beeld van hulle taalvaardighede en taalvoorkeure visueel voor te stel deur die buitelyne van 'n menslike liggaam in te kleur. Deur hierdie analise is deelnemers geklassifiseer volgens die tipe tweetalige verwerwing en die toevoer wat hulle tuis en in ander omgewings ontvang het. Om vas te stel of kinders van verskillende taalverwerwingstipes verskille toon in die frekwensie, tipe en funksie van hul kodewisselingsgedrag, is daar klankopnames gemaak van kodewisselingsgedrag in beide formele en informele situasies. Die opnames is getranskribeer en geannoteer vir frekwensie van wisselings. Alle gevalle van kodewisseling wat in die data aangetref is, is dan geklassifiseer op grond van die onderskeid tussen intersentensiële kodewisseling en intrasentensiële (en intrawoord-) kodewisseling. Die kwalitatiewe analise van die data is uitgevoer in terme van Poplack (1980) se grammatikale beperkinge. Die kodewisselings wat in die data gevind is, is verder geanaliseer volgens die funksie van hul gebruik. Die bevindinge van die analise is toe vergelyk met die tipe tweetalige blootstelling van die individuele deelnemers. Die resultate het getoon dat daar inderdaad 'n verskil in die kodewisselingsgedrag van kinders met verskillende taalblootstellingsagtergronde is. Deelnemers wat minder Duitse toevoer gehad het, het meer dikwels na hul dominante taal (naamlik Engels) gewissel as deelnemers wat ewe veel blootstelling aan albei tale ontvang het of Duits as moedertaal praat. Data-analise het verder aangetoon dat opeenvolgende tweetaliges nie net meer dikwels kodewissel nie maar ook gebruik maak van kodewisseling (eerder as van 'n ander diskoersstrategie) om leksikale gapings te vul.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85602
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