Discussion of the Importance of the Social and Cultural Context Where Child Language Acquisition is Concerned

Discussion of the Importance of the Social and Cultural Context Where Child Language Acquisition is Concerned

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Discussion of the Importance of the Social and Cultural Context Where Child Language Acquisition is Concerned

Beginning with Elene Lieven’s review of the importance of the
environment for language learning, discuss the importance of the
social and cultural context where child language acquisition is
concerned.

Environment

According to Elena Lieven, the roles played by brothers and sisters,
and other children and the extent to which adults explicitly teach
appropriate language to their children are important in language
learning.

By ‘environment’, she means the characteristics of the interpersonal
surroundings within which young, language-learning children spend
their time whether dyadic ( mainly alone with the mother)or polyadic (
with other adults,with siblings,with a group of children). ( Mercer &
Swann, p 36)

Theories of environmental influences on language learning have tended
to be built upon the study of the mother-infant dyad where in actual
fact most children in the world grow up in polyadic situations where
they spend a lot of time in one of the following situations: with the
mother and other sibling/children; with older children or others
acting as caregivers; sitting around with a group of adults and
children. This is not only true of children in non-industrailized
cultures; in many economically advanced societies childcare
arrangements may be less dependent on the mother staying at home with
the children. (Mercer & Swann, p 36)

There are more polyadic patterns of childcare seen in rural,
economically traditional societies. The children in Schieffelin’s
(1985) study of Kaluli of Papua New Guinea spend...


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... communities via different dialects, in others via different languages,
whereas in others codeswitching allows hybrid identities to be
expressed and mixed messages to be conveyed. Up to adolescence
children are learning to use these different varieties and mixtures
of language to express their identities and achieve their goals, both
as members of social groups and as individuals.

( Mercer & Swann, p 70)

In our everyday lives, we play a variety of social roles, and it is
often through spoken language ( or silence) that we signal shifts in
our social identity or relationships with others. Sometimes we
unconsciously converge towards or diverge from the speech patterns of
others either within or beyond our community; at other times we may
make a conscious choice to emulate or mimic another person or social
group.

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