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Characteristics of Cherokee immersion students’ learner language: Linguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives

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Title: Characteristics of Cherokee immersion students’ learner language: Linguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives
Authors: Peter, Lizette
Hirata-Edds, Tracy
Feeling, Durbin
Mackey, Ryan
Kirk, Wyman
Issue Date: 03 Mar 2013
Description: As Indigenous communities seek to revitalize their ancestral tongues through second language learning opportunities such as school-based immersion, the scope of linguistic documentation has expanded to include descriptions of language as it is learned by second language speakers. Learner language documentation is rapidly becoming valued as a means of providing feedback for the refinement of language teaching curriculum and pedagogy as well as elucidating second language acquisition processes.

In this presentation we report on a mixed-method, longitudinal study of elementary children learning Cherokee-as-a-second-language in an immersion school in Oklahoma. Our purpose is to describe both the characteristics of children’s productive and receptive language development and the sociolinguistic environment that shapes their acquisition of Cherokee. Our data are drawn from an annual language assessment administered over seven years, observations of teaching and learning in kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms, and conversations with teachers and parents on the nature of children’s language development. We frame our analysis in terms of research on second language acquisition processes and the cognitive and creative processes involved in second language acquisition among young immersion students, within the context of endangered language revitalization.

Research on immersion worldwide suggests that learners’ language contains incomplete or ungrammatical forms resulting from an emphasis on communication, where language learning is largely a by-product—rather than the focus—of classroom activities. This is true for Cherokee immersion as well: our study confirms that Cherokee immersion children’s language displays typical learner-language features, such as overgeneralization, omission, and code-switching as well as more idiosyncratic language formations unique to young English speakers learning Cherokee. But, the school does not exist in a vacuum; there are additional factors influencing the children’s learning of Cherokee, including a lack of standardization of the language, varied linguistic experiences of teachers and other Cherokee adults, and the novelty of school as a Cherokee linguistic domain. We will discuss how these variables interact as a sociolinguistic backdrop to Cherokee language learning for immersion school students.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this abstract are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cherokee Nation.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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