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This paper discusses links between the conditions of developing child bilingualism and the adult outcomes in semiotic contrast in elicited speech and codeswitching.
Analysis of interaction of children raised as bilinguals shows that from the beginning they can recognize the appropriate language for addressees. When the lexical repertoire is inadequate, borrowing occurs, and codeswitching of longer segments appears before age two. Throughout childhood and adolescence, codeswitching has increasing interactional functions as children's pragmatic skills grow.
Some adult codeswitching relies on semiotic differences implied by language. It is likely that both such codeswitching and the dual selves shown in elicited discourse in different languages are limited to specific sociolinguistic situations and personal histories. These include education in a second language, adult immigration, and frequent contact with a monolingual community.
The differences in content and perspective related to language separation in the bilingual adult are the other side of language choice during codeswitching. In this paper, we propose to examine the context and development of codeswitching in children as an aspect of pragmatic development, and then to link developing codeswitching practices to the adult division of labor between languages.
2 Child bilingualism
The requirements for the acquisition of any language are: capacity, motivation to understand, be understood and/or sound like a group member, and access or sufficient time in situations where a symbolic system and understandable information (meanings) co-occur systematically and permit inference and mapping.
The factor of access is the most important one at any age to acquire a language. Motivation has its effects primarily through varying access. In infancy motivation is not a variable factor since exposure is out of the control of the child, but older learners can ignore or avoid access to one of the varieties available to them. By preschool, children begin to consider it more important to understand some speakers than others and tend to pay more attention to them and try to spend time with them. They come to care more about being understood by or sounding like specific others. These are the factors that account for the fact that children usually sound more like their peers than like their parents.
Children also often learn the language of their peers in the neighborhood. To go beyond just understanding a language, one also needs a reason to speak. This might be sociability, which makes one want to initiate interaction, or a need to ask for necessities. Beyond this, learners can have a desire to sound like others and to be seen as an insider who shares the same values. Sociolinguistic studies of dialect (e.g., Berthele, 2000; Eckert, 1989) have shown that in children and teenagers these can be powerful factors in making children's speech like that of others located nearby in a peer network.
These factors mean that most infants with enough exposure to more than one language will become competent, regardless of how the interaction conditions are set up. In the case of bilinguals, there is not equal access to both languages. Whether a bilingual child will grow in knowledge of each language, develop complex syntax, a variety of registers, and a mature vocabulary, depends both on the changing family usage and on wider social networks as time passes. It is very easy for a childhood language to be lost without family and community support (e.g., Hakuta, 1994; Wong-Fillmore, 1991). Later use of one of a child's languages often declines in relatively monolingual societies like the United States because the child hears the dominant language of the community more often, wants to sound like a speaker of that variety, and gets no school support for his or her first languages if they are of low prestige.
3 Contexts of child bilingualism
3.1 Person-prescriptive families
The first studies of child bilingualism were often done by linguists studying their own families (Leopold, 1939-1949; Ronjat, 1913). In these cases, the prescriptive beliefs of linguists affected their family practices. A prototype of this kind of study is Ronjat's family, in which one parent spoke only German, the other spoke only French, and visitors were admonished to stick to one language only (Grammont's principle).
In such practices, the output of each parent is prescribed, but both parents must understand each other. In the strictest case, speech between the parents involves asymmetry of use, with one speaking language A and the other speaking language B. While the child must know that the parents can each understand the speech of the other, the child is admonished to do situational switching; that is, to change language by addressee, even when the child is with both parents.
In a three-person, isolated family, such prescriptive conditions can be described as valuing maximum separation of languages and setting up the optimal experimental conditions for the study of any mutual influences on the linguistic systems of the child that might occur. However, families are normally not isolated. There are others who come into the household as playmates, relatives, guests, employees or repairmen. In many communities it cannot be assumed that these all are bilingual, so what happens theoretically is that the child must act as interpreter, since only the child is allowed to speak both languages. Valdes (2003) provides more discussion on the child as interpreter to outsiders. Language choice between siblings in such a family is not predictable, since their interaction must sometimes occur outside of parental control.
In the real world, of course, it is extremely difficult to maintain rigid prescriptive separation, and even adults following a prescriptive system are likely to slip and use codeswitching of brief insertions to each other of to the child or to find it necessary to use their passive language to outsiders.
Asymmetric parent bilingualism
In some families, there is both a bilingual and a monolingual parent or other relative. The outcome depends very much on whether the monolingual speaks the dominant societal language or a minority language, and is unwilling or unable to learn the other language.
In such families, the child hears the parents talk to each other in the shared variety. Since bilinguals often feel it is rude to speak in a language others do not understand, there is a problem in conversation between the child and bilingual parent if the monolingual parent is present. For this reason, the excluded parent sometimes may not actually want the child to be bilingual, so power dynamics in the family can play a role. If the monolingual speaks the community's dominant language, there can be a strong risk of language loss. This issue of fear of exclusion and of a threat to power is reminiscent of the problem in workplaces where monolingual owners/supervisors prohibit speech in the minority language.
On the other hand, the presence in the family of a monolingual speaker of a minority language that is not supported in the community can be a very strong inducement to bilingualism in children. In an unpublished instructional classroom study on hundreds of families through a questionnaire project in the community, Ervin-Tripp and Guo (1992) found that death of departure from the household of a monolingual first generation immigrant was among the strongest predictors of minority or immigrant language loss after childhood.
Bilingual dual use families
In the majority of bilingual families, both languages are known and used by everyone. In immigrant families competence changes through time, as a result of both schooling of children and language learning on the job by parents (Hakuta, 1994), changing both language attitudes and codeswitching practices in the family (Valdes, 1996).
Although sibling talk is an …