Multilingual children increase language differentiation by indexing communities of practice

Bibliographic Collection: 
CARTA-Inspired Publication
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: O'Shannessy, C
Year of Publication: 2015
Journal: First Language
Volume: 35
Pagination: 305-326
Publisher: Sage
Publication Language: eng

An area in need of study in child language acquisition is that of complex multilingual contexts in which there is little language separation by interlocutor or domain. Little is known about how multilingual children use language to construct their identities in each language or in both languages. Identity construction in monolingual contexts has been examined closely using a community of practice model, with case studies of adolescents and teenagers. Language is viewed as social practice, as individuals use language to actively construct a shared community of practice. This study examines multilingual children’s (ages 6–12) lexical and phonological choices in two of their languages, Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri, that share many lexical items and most nominal morphology. The children’s choices contribute to language differentiation and in some instances drive language differentiation further than adult speech does. The motivation is captured in a community of practice model.