Background: The emerging field of developmental sociolinguistics (De Vogelaer & Katerbow 2017), which investigates how children acquire socially meaningful linguistic variation, has so far mainly studied the production of standard/vernacular phonetic variation in acquisition (e.g. Holmes- Elliott 2020; Chevrot et al. 2011; Docherty et al. 2013). This study aims to complement this focus with a perceptual approach studying how children develop the ability to process indexical meaning of language variation. Since individuals in the globalized Western European context belong to inherently heterogeneous speech communities (Weinreich 1970), we investigate the acquisition of the social meaning of contact-induced variation between English lexical items and heritage alternatives. Aim: This study experimentally explores Belgian Dutch children’s preferences for English lexical items over heritage alternatives in order to gain insight into (1) how children learn to attach social meaning to lexical variation and (2) to what extent collective patterns emerge from individual preferences, indicative of similar processing of indexical values of English used in Dutch. Respondents: 120 Belgian Dutch-speaking children will be recruited in a sample balanced for gender and age (8-9, 10-11 and 12-13-year-olds). Studying the preferences of children from this age range serves as a window on the evolution of children’s social evaluations as they transition from caregiver- oriented models of sociolinguistic variation towards peer-oriented models in adolescence (cf. Holmes-Elliott 2016). Design: The experiment addresses the question of whether Belgian Dutch children find English- sounding names more appropriate for “new inventions” from certain semantic fields than Dutch- sounding names. Children are introduced to novel objects belonging to four different semantic fields that index social meanings expected to be associated with English and Dutch words (English-prone fields: IT, sports; Dutch-prone fields: home & family, public life). Each trial introduces a “new invention” that has a particular function (e.g. sports equipment) and/or is intended for a particular user (e.g. young people). Respondents are asked to choose which of two alternative names is the best fit for the proposed object. The name pairs consist of graphemically identical neologisms (cf. Samara et al. 2017) which are pronounced in a Dutch or English way. Neologism stimuli are phonotactically plausible in both languages (e.g. “snaster”, Dutch [snɑstər] vs. English [snæstəɹ]) and have been developed according to a pre-determined set of consonant-vowel structures. Pre- and post-tests are included to verify that the neologisms are recognisable as English and Dutch. To check the stability of responses across tasks, the neologism phase of the experiment is followed by a second phase where respondents are directly asked whether an English name or a Dutch name is the best fit for the proposed object. After each phase of the experiment, a qualitative question probes children’s awareness of the linguistic phenomenon under study. Multifactorial analysis will uncover the interplay between lexical preference (dependent variable) and semantic field, age, gender and language awareness (independent variables). Implications: Results will allow us to track the evolution in how and when children form indexical links between bilingual lexical resources in different contexts within a setting of language contact.
|Publication status||Published - 27 Aug 2021|
|Event||5th Variation and Language Processing Conference - University of Copenhagen / online, Copenhagen, Denmark|
Duration: 25 Aug 2021 → 27 Aug 2021
Conference number: 5
|Conference||5th Variation and Language Processing Conference|
|Period||25/08/21 → 27/08/21|