Early bilingual writing
Some influences of the mother tongue on written genre learning in the majority language
The paper reports some influences of the mother tongue uses on the majority language writing in a simultaneously bilingual child. The child was observed over a five-year period (from the pre-school through mid-primary years) when receiving mainstream schooling in English, whereas her communication with the parents largely occurred in a minority language (Russian). The written texts produced by the child in both her languages over this five-year period, both in the school and at home, were analysed using the systemic functional methodology (Halliday 1994). The written texts of the child’s classroom peers were sampled for comparative analysis. The findings provide evidence that language development in one of the bilingual’s languages tends to enhance the development in the other. Thus there have been differentiated text types in the child’s English writing that were not explicitly taught in English, and also some genres not typically found in the same age monolinguals’ writing. These genres have been scaffolded using the minority language, thus indicating that aspects of the schematic structure and grammar mastered in one of a bilingual’s languages can be carried across to their second language and stimulate the emergence of new written genres in it. Overall the findings support the hypothesis of the interdependence of bilinguals’ languages development (Cummins, 1981; 1984), in the area of written genre learning.
Published online: 01 January 2002
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Cited by 2 other publications
Silva, Tony & Colleen Brice
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