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Bilingual Competence and Bilingual Proficiency in Child Development

Norbert Francis

Publication Year: 2011

A study of first and second language development in an indigenous community with implications for broader linguistic and cognitive issues.

Published by: The MIT Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-xii

This book is about the development of bilingual proficiency and the different kinds of underlying competence that come together in making up its component parts. When two or more languages are part of a child’s world, we have a rich opportunity to learn something about language in general and about how the mind works. The same is true (some opportunities richer, others less so) for bilingualism in adults. This explains in part why...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Many people are owed thanks for helping shape the research project that I will report on here, first and foremost the bilingual elementary students with whom I had the privilege of working in a number of rural communities in Central Mexico. It is to them and their families that the first acknowledgment is most sincerely extended. As a guest and visitor to their communities, I want to express my gratitude for the hospitality and generous....


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pp. xv-xvi

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Chapter 1. Introduction: The Problem of Language Acquisition When There Are Two

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pp. 1-24

Explaining how language acquisition unfolds in young children continues to elude consensus among investigators, even when we consider only one mother tongue. Children exposed to two languages, beyond a minimum threshold, develop bilingual competence and bilingual profi ciency to some degree, usually to a degree that is surprising to both the casual observer and the student of language development. Contact with more than two languages...

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Chapter 2. Bilingualism in School

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pp. 25-48

This chapter outlines the basic principles for understanding bilingual and L2 learning, applicable to multilingual and multicultural educational institutions. Chapter 3 will bring this focus down to one bilingual school in particular. The study of how children learn second languages and how the L1 and L2 subsystems interact under different conditions of development should be an important part of an informed discussion of language-teaching practices. Often, though, debates on school language...

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Chapter 3. The Debate on the Nature of Bilingual Proficiency Distinguishing between Different Kinds of Language Ability

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pp. 49-78

The previous chapter provided some background on the school language policy debate. That discussion opens the way for us now to consider the problems of bilingualism and literacy learning in a concrete language contact situation similar to some of those that we examined from afar. Here, we will examine the findings from a comparative follow-up to the study that was described in chapter 1. The follow-up study focused on the two skill areas that receive the most attention in school: reading and writing. Four...

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Chapter 4. Componential Approaches to the Study of Language Proficiency

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pp. 79-106

The previous chapter revisited an important theme in the study of language and language ability: Can a given proficiency be analyzed in terms of cognitive systems and subsystems? Might these components, or some of them, be specialized to some degree or to varying degrees (have “ domain-specific ” properties)? The question was posed in regard to concrete problems encountered by bilingual and second language educators as they grapple...

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Chapter 5. Research on the Components of Bilingual Proficiency

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pp. 107-140

In this chapter, we will delve deeper into the idea that bilingual profi ciency is componential — what it means to say that it is internally diverse. Along the way, we will see that the proposed modifi cation to Cummins’s Common Underlying Profi -ciency model (figure 3.2) turns out to be in need of some modification of its own. Paivio ’ s (1991, 2007) Bilingual Dual Coding Model and M. Paradis ’ s (2004) Three- Store Hypothesis will help move...

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Chapter 6. The Critical Period, Access to Universal Grammar in First and Second Language, and Language Attrition

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pp. 141-176

So far, the concepts of modularity and the competence-ability distinction have proved useful in a number of ways. We will continue applying them in two areas of language development. First, in this chapter we will apply them to aspects of grammatical development: how child language research has tried to explain simultaneous, sequential, and subtractive bilingualism, L2 learning, and L1 attrition. All of this will lead to the important debate, still current after many years, over critical period effects in L1 and L2. The interesting...

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Chapter 7. An Analysis of Academic Language Proficiency

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pp. 177-202

In this chapter, we leave behind the interesting debates on the strictly linguistic aspects of L1 and L2 development. In chapter 6, we focused primarily on the grammatical knowledge side of our theme of bilingual competence and bilingual profi - ciency: children’s competence in two languages, and how this linguistic competence may undergo changes that are sometimes surprising. Now we shift our attention back to proficiency — specifically, to the abilities related to academic uses of language, including the abilities required...

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Chapter 8. Metalinguistic Awareness, Bilingualism, and Writing

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pp. 203-230

Chapter 7 returned to the primary focus of our study of bilingual competence and proficiency: the abilities that develop in school associated with learning how to read and write. As we saw, some of these abilities are observable in other kinds of language use, in problem solving and creative endeavor. Some of the same component knowledge structures and skills are shared with abilities related to listening comprehension and oral expression. As Cummins (2000) points out, Cognitive Academic Language Profi ciency is not...

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Chapter 9. Metalinguistic Awareness, Bilingualism, and Reading

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pp. 231-252

Continuing on the theme of literacy and metalinguistic awareness, we now examine another way that the self-monitoring of text processing may be related to this connection. Chapter 8 described how children refl ect on language forms when they revise and correct their own writing. This chapter looks at how self-monitoring works in reading. Again, it is error correction that offers a window into the mechanisms of this kind of attention to text patterns. Here we will focus on reading comprehension: what kinds of strategy...

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Chapter 10. Conclusion Results and Prospects

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pp. 253-280

In this concluding chapter, we will see how the theme of modularity might help put a coherent framework around some outstanding questions that were touched on in the previous chapters, but now require some closure: (1) a critique of whole-language and naturalistic approaches to literacy and L2 learning; (2) a retrospective assessment of how the proposed model of bilingual competence and bilingual proficiency has fared so far; and (3) concluding thoughts on aspects of language loss, not as we considered them earlier...

Appendix 1: Assessment of Metalinguistic Awareness Related to Bilingualism

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pp. 281-288

Appendix 2: Indices of Additive Bilingualism

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pp. 289-294

Appendix 3: Early Childhood Borrowing and Codeswitching

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pp. 295-306

Appendix 4: Writing Samples, including the Assessment of Revision/Correction

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pp. 307-312


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pp. 313-324


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pp. 325-342


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pp. 343-382


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pp. 383-394

E-ISBN-13: 9780262298384
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262016391

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2011