Children’s Role in Family Language Policy: ‘Unresponsiveness’ and Non-Verbal Action to Parents’ Words

Conference: The European Conference on Language Learning (ECLL2022)
Title: Children’s Role in Family Language Policy: ‘Unresponsiveness’ and Non-Verbal Action to Parents’ Words
Stream: Culture and Language
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Siu Yu Lau, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong
Ruowei Yang, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong


This paper reports the results of a study on Family Language Policy (FLP) which is based on three families with a total of five children (ages 4;1, 2;3, 10;5; 8;2; and 3;2) who immigrated to Hong Kong from mainland China. The study investigates their language practices at home, particularly parents-children interaction, to find the children’s role in FLP. The newly developed theoretical framework of FLP has highlighted ways in which children’s agency may influence FLP. However, relevant research has not yet addressed how children's ‘unresponsiveness’ and non-verbal action interfere with parents' language ideology and coping strategies, thereby adjusting their family language policies. Intending to explore how the children’s agency is achieved by nonlinguistic mediational means, this study draws on about six months of ethnographic observations, interviews with family members, field notes, and audio and video recordings of naturally occurring interactions at home. The data collected were sorted and analyzed, and special attention was paid to the children’s ‘unresponsiveness’ and non-verbal action. Findings show that some nonlinguistic means children employed embody children's negative attitude towards or rejection of certain language, which may change the language ideology of parents, then lead to changes in FLP. The findings provide evidence for the impact of children's agency on language management at home and advance our understanding of the nature of multilingual acquisition and influential factors for FLP development.

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