Title: Phrasing It Differently: Understanding Multilingual Children’s Social and Communicative Competence Through Language Mixing
Stream: Plurilingualism - Bilingualism
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Xiao-lei Wang, Adelphi University, United States
Does speaking more than one language promote social and communicative competence? Little is known about this topic. Past research suggests that multilinguals (including bilinguals) use language mixings strategically in communication to achieve different communication purposes, such as to express emotions as an indication of anger, annoyance and authority reinforcement , to emphasize or negotiate complex linguistic and cultural identity, or to construct and reconstruct a third space of in-between one’s identities, and to mark group membership, solidarity or social status or class. However, research has not focused on how these abilities are developed longitudinally and whether speaking multiple languages indeed succors social and communicative competence. Thus, the purpose of this longitudinal study is to explore whether language mixings produced by multilingual children can cultivate their social and communicative competence and if so, how they do it. Two simultaneous trilingual siblings participated in the study. Video-recorded naturalistic data across a span of nineteen years (from age 1 to age 19) were used for the study. The results suggest that the two siblings were able to ease tension, express negative emotions, offer constructive criticism, and infuse humor to keep the communication channel open by utilizing language mixings in situations that were otherwise confrontational and unpleasant. Overall, the siblings’ social and communicative competence demonstrated in their use of linguistic mixings is not a small feat. Having more than one language available to them, the siblings were able to capitalize their multilingual resources to leverage their intents in socially intelligent ways.
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