Copenhagen summer school


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  • Hi my name ’s Gerry Howley and I ’m a research student and GTA at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester, England.
  • Imagine:You are a friendly, chatty 14-year-old student called Sara. You do well in all your exams in school. You love music and enjoy playing piano. You fancy a boy in your class. After school and at weekends you love gossiping with your friends, buying teen magazines, going to the cinema, eating popcorn, and going shopping for a particular style of trainers that you just can ’t live without. However, due to certain circumstances your parents are struggling financially and cannot afford to fully feed and clothe the family at home. So they move to another country where you can speak very little, or even none of the language, but there your parents are able to work hard to earn money and even perhaps send some home to their parents. What strategies do you use to show who you are, make friends, and find your way in your new environment? Do you identify dominant groups and make a conscious effort to assimilate, or do you find others like you, perhaps even from your home country, and find security and reassurance in the solidarity of that group? The reason I’m getting you to think about such a situation is because this is a reality for a large number of children in UK schools and I am interested in how students shape their language use in such situations. Previous studies, and I will talk in a moment about some of these, have shown that learners of a second language can and do acquire the dialect of the area to which they move. What is not completely understood is why there are differences across individuals in the degree of acquisition of local features and some acquire more native-like patterns of variation than others. Social networks and communities of practice have been identified as a potentially avenue for answers, however this is a much under-studied area and this requires further empirical investigation. My study focuses on teenagers living in Manchester, England, and my fieldwork will take place in Manchester high schools. I have chosen to focus my study on teenagers because adolescence is a very important time for the creation of close-knit social networks and CoP, and it has been recognised that adolescents are key innovators in the negotiation and maintenance of meaning linked to variation in language (Eckert 2000). I am currently only 6 months in to my research, I haven ’t started my fieldwork, and so unfortunately I don ’t as yet have any data to present to you. So I ’m going to start today with an explanation of why there is a need for more research into language usage amongst migrant communities. I will then go on to review some of the recent research that has been done in second language dialect acquisition. Finally, I will explain what my research sets out to do and how it aims to contribute to our knowledge and understanding of second language dialect acquisition.
  • So, why should we be interested in the migrant population and their dialect acquisition in a second language? Much research has been done into first language dialect acquisition; much research has been done into people learning English as a second or foreign language. This is often done where English is being learnt in the students ’ home countries. Where research has been done into second language dialect acquisition, investigation typically involves looking at the acquisition of a ‘ s t andard ’ dialect, rather than a regional or vernacular one. So, there are only a small number of studies that address the issue of regional dialect acquisition within a second language. Obviously if we are looking at acquisition of a regional dialect, this will probably involve migrants. Migrants are a highly understudied group, in general, and linguistically. This especially applies to migrant children who are said to exist in a ‘r e search void ’ (Ackers & Stalford 2004). These children are perceived as lacking any political or economic importance and are therefore mostly ‘i n visible ’ from research (Reynolds 2008), despite the fact that investigation into migrants ’ language use not only helps us to further understand the dynamics of linguistic variation and change (see e.g. Cheshire et al. 2008; Sharma 2005), but it also contributes to our knowledge and understanding of the field of second language acquisition (Bayley & Regan 2004).
  • Overall, there have only been a handful of significant studies that have addressed the issue of DA within a second language. Some of these in terms of their methodology come from an SLA perspective.One of these is Baker (2008) who investigates the acquisition of Utah English features by adolescent Spanish speakers, focusing on the social factors behind the acquisition. Participants’ degree of acquisition was determined through their reading of sentences containing the target variables. Speakers read the sentences twice and it was the second reading that was recorded and analysed by the researcher. Participants were also asked to complete an attitudinal questionnaire concerned with attitudes towards living in Utah. Interestingly, Baker found that there was a correlation between the acquisition of Utah features and attitude, but unexpectedly it showed that speakers with a more negative attitude towards Utah were more likely to show signs of acquisition. Baker suggests the possibility that the negative attitudes intensify as contact with native speakers increases (indeed, the group with negative attitudes did report more interaction with local speakers). In other words, it was the increased contact with local speakers that was affecting the degree of acquisition, even though at the same time this increased contact was heightening negative attitudes towards the target community. So here we see a possible connection between a speaker ’ social networks and their degree of acquisition, emerging through data collected in an attitudinal questionnaire. Using a variationist methodology, Wolfram et al. (2004) focus on new dialect formation in emerging Hispanic communities in the US. They conduct conversational interviews with participants and through these they establish that the acquisition of local dialect features are highly variable, even when speakers have the same lengths of residence, proficiency, community background, and family history. They discuss the case of a brother and sister, where the girl produced hardly any of the local variant, whereas her brother produced the local variant most of the time. So again here we 池 e seeing that people do acquire features of the new regional dialect, but the question is why the acquisition is so variable across individuals. They observe that the boy identifies strongly with the local, non-Hispanic ‘J o ck ’ culture of adolescent boys, while his sister is much more oriented toward mainstream American institutional values. This is clearly reminiscent of Eckert ’s seminal work with the Jocks and Burnouts in Belten High, but Wolfram et al. do not talk about Eckert or CoP at all in the article. The last study that I want to discuss, before I move onto my own, is one that directly inspired my research/interested me in this area. Schleef, Meyerhoff and Clark (2011) ask: To what extent are teenage Polish migrants acquiring the patterns of variation typical of their local peer group? They examine one group of Polish teens living in Edinburgh and one in London. During the course of sociolinguistic interviews, researchers asked Polish teens about their friendship ties in the UK (e.g. Did they mix mainly with other Polish kids?  Did they have a mixture of Polish & British friends or did they stay away from other Poles and mix mainly with British kids?). In the Edinburgh data, this returned a significant result: Poles who say they only mix with other Poles are unlikely to use the apical variant of (ing) that is typically used by Edinburgh-born adolescents; Poles who said they had Scottish friends were more likely to use the apical variant. So in Edinburgh the participants ’ social networks seem to again be having an impact on their acquisition of the local variant.  But in London this did not return a significant result and it is unclear why. One possibility for the discrepancy is the way in which the data regarding social networks were gathered. A criticism of research that uses some form of self-report for data collection is that in self-report situations, it is possible that participants may exaggerate what they report, they may forget things, or be biased by their feelings at that particular point in time. Systematic errors in self-report measures often result ‘ from the desire of participants to avoid embarrassment and project a favorable image to others ’ (Fisher 1993:303). The effect of this Social Desirability Bias (REF) must be considered. These studies are representative of the vast majority of studies that typically agree that non-native English-speaking migrants who move to countries where English is the first language do acquire the dialect of the area to which they move at least to some extent (e.g. Drummond 2010; Schleef et al. 2011; Wolfram 2004). What is unclear, however, is why the extent to which non-native speakers acquire local dialect features varies greatly between individuals and why the way that they use the local variants does not always mirror the patterns of use of their native English speaking peers. As can be seen from what I ’v e just talked about, it has been observed by studies using methodologies of both first wave of variationist linguistics and SLA is that an examination of the social networks and CoP of the speakers may shed further light on the issue. In order to examine the impact of social networks and CoP on dialect acquisition, it is necessary to use methodologies that are designed to discover locally salient social categories, rather than presuppose their existence and relevance to speakers. Perfectly suited to this form of enquiry is ethnographic observation.
  • Using a mixed methods approach of both ethnography and more traditional variationist quantitative methodology such as auditory analyses and statistical testing of recorded speech data, my study sets out to determine: 1. whether migrant teens in Manchester acquire features of the local dialect, and if so, to what extent; 2. how their patterns of variation are similar/different from the Manchester-born native English speaking adolescents; and 3. how their acquisition and patterns of variation correlate with the ethnic diversity of their social networks and/or Communities of Practice. So far, I ’v e gained ethical approval from my university and I ’v e made my first contact with 7 high schools in the Manchester area. On my return to Manchester at the end of this week I will be setting up meetings with the heads of schools with a view to starting a period of ethnographic observation before they finish term at the end of July. This initial period is really just to get me into the schools so that I can see how I can get used to observing the teens, as well as them getting used to me being around. It will also give me opportunity to identify what opportunities there are for observing the teens ’ interactions, begin to understand who their social networks include, and what their Communities of Practice are. After the summer holidays, in September, I will return to maybe 2 or 3 of the schools to start in depth observation. Then, once I ’m comfortable with them and they ’r e hopefully comfortable with me I ’l l identify some of the teens to record their conversations in friendship pairs and groups. This will in part give me greater understanding about their activities, friends and so on, but also it will give me the opportunity I need to record their natural, conversational speech which will be analysed later on. As stated, my research investigates correlations between second language dialect acquisition and the migrant teens ’ social networks and participation in CoPs. But ethnography also gives me the advantage of if other issues were impacting upon the teens ’ acquisition of the local dialect, for example peer pressure or future plans and aspirations, then the very nature of ethnographic enquiry means that I would be more able to observe this and describe what ’s going on than I could through those questions in an interview or that one-off conversation where also, remember, participants ’ responses may be influenced by Social Desirability Bias. The immersion of the researcher as a participant observer is also argued to go some way in circumventing the observer ’s paradox. Of course, the use of ethnographic enquiry in sociolinguistic research is not new, but the vast majority of studies in second language dialect acquisition have employed techniques and methods of data collection and analysis typical of first wave variationist research. Key to ethnographic study is the building of relationships between the researcher and her participants, and through employing ethnographic methods and spending as much time as possible with the teens during my visits to the schools, in the playground, while they ’r e chatting and playing, this means that I will be able to build a thick and detailed description of their lives, more than could ever be possible through a typical sociolinguistic interview or one off conversation. I will gain greater understanding of their personalities, interests, talents, abilities, relationships, friendship groups, activities, and see how they construct meaning in their day-to-day lives through their choices in, for example, clothing, music, and of course language.
  • Just to summarise what I ’v e spoken about: I have explained the context of my study with regard to the situation in the UK and why it is important to study migrants ’ language use - in particular the fact that it sheds light not only on dialect acquisition, but also second language acquisition. I talked about some recent studies that used methodologies both from SLA and 1 st wave variationist sociolinguistics, that show evidence that social networks and CoP may be key in extending our understanding of why there are the differences between individuals ’ acquisition of local dialect features. I finished by explaining how I wish to take this investigation forward by examining teenage migrants ’ social networks and CoP and that I seek to provide further understanding of why there may be differences in their acquisition of the local Manchester dialect. My research sets out to add to the body of knowledge by adopting a mixed methods approach, which will be heavily informed by in-depth ethnographic observation.
  • Having a background as a TEFL teacher I recognised that, to some students, learning English comes so easily. They ’r e able to come to England, find friends, and acquire mainstream discourses, cultural and social membership really quickly, while others really struggle. I want to understand more about this and how ‘i m migrant students shape and are shaped by their language use and experiences in school ’ . I believe that it is our social responsibility to understand the experiences of these children in order to be able to provide them with the best opportunities possible when they come to British shores.
  • Thank you very much for listening. There are a number of ways you can get in touch with me. I’d love to hear your questions. Thanks very much.
  • Copenhagen summer school

    1. 1. <ul><li>Do you speak Manchester? </li></ul><ul><li>Gerry Howley </li></ul><ul><li>University of Salford </li></ul>Image by Pink Sherbet Photography (CC BY 2.0)
    2. 2. Image by Darren 131 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    3. 3. <ul><li>Lack of research into regional/vernacular dialect acquisition in L2 </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of investigation into migrants’ language use </li></ul><ul><li>Helps us to understand linguistic variation and change (e.g. Cheshire et al. 2008; Sharma 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Contributes to our understanding of SLA (Bayley & Regan 2004) </li></ul>Why L2 dialect acquisition in migrants? Image by Denis Collette (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    4. 4. Recent studies <ul><li>SLA methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Baker (2008): Questionnaire - increased contact with local speakers affects degree of acquisition of Utah dialect features. </li></ul><ul><li>Variationist methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Wolfram et al. (2004): Conversational interview - acquisition of the native speaker features is highly variable. Observe that orientation toward certain social and cultural values may influence production of local variants. </li></ul><ul><li>Schleef et al. (2011): Sociolinguistic interview - social networks seem to have an impact on acquisition of the local variant. </li></ul>Image by Darren 131 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    5. 5. My study <ul><li>To what extent do migrant teens acquire features of the Manchester dialect? </li></ul><ul><li>How do their patterns of variation differ from their locally-born peers? </li></ul><ul><li>How do their patterns of variation correlate with the ethnic diversity of their social networks and/or Communities of Practice? </li></ul>Image by See-ming Lee (CC BY-SA 2.0)
    6. 6. Summary <ul><li>Important to study migrants’ language use for both dialect acquisition and second language acquisition </li></ul><ul><li>Recent studies used methodologies both from SLA and 1 st wave variationist sociolinguistics: indication that social networks and CoP may be key in understanding differences in dialect acquisition </li></ul><ul><li>My study sets out to provide further understanding by taking a mixed methods approach, heavily informed by in-depth ethnographic observation </li></ul>Image by Pink Sherbet Photography (CC BY 2.0)
    7. 7. Image by Darren 131 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    8. 8. Thanks for listening [email_address] Image by Pink Sherbet Photography (CC BY 2.0)