Bilingual language exposure and the peer group:Acquiring phonetics and phonology in Gaelic Medium Education

Nance, Claire Louise (2020) Bilingual language exposure and the peer group:Acquiring phonetics and phonology in Gaelic Medium Education. International Journal of Bilingualism, 24 (2). pp. 360-375. ISSN 1367-0069

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Aims and objectives: This paper aims to examine the acquisition of phonetics and phonology in the context of Scottish Gaelic immersion schooling. I explore the effect of differing home language backgrounds among primary school children on the production of laterals and stop consonants. Design/methodology/approach: Acoustic analysis was performed on Gaelic and English speech data collected from children in Gaelic Medium Education in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Data and analysis: Word list data were collected from 18 children aged 7–11 and analyzed using measurements of formants and duration of stop phases. Half of the sample had little or no exposure to Gaelic in the home, while the other half had differing degrees of family input. Statistical analysis was conducted using Conditional Inference Trees. Findings and conclusions: This study finds that any initial differences between children who enter Gaelic Medium Education as fluent speakers and those who do not are leveled out by late primary school, at least in terms of pronunciation. I suggest that leveled varieties of minority languages can develop in pre-adolescence in peer group settings such as minority language education. Originality: This study is the first to examine phonetic and phonological acquisition in Gaelic-English bilingual children. It is one of a small number of studies to examine bilingual phonological acquisition in immersion schooling. The study supports recent research exploring the development of peer group varieties among young minority language speakers. Significance and implications: This research aims to expand traditional models that consider the extent of exposure to two languages as key in predicting phonetic and phonological production. I suggest that the impact of the peer group and the context of language use are also significant factors. Results suggest potential development of education varieties of Gaelic. These findings have implications for future revitalization strategies for minority languages across the world.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
International Journal of Bilingualism
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The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, International Journal of Bilingualism, 24 (2), 2019, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2019 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the International Journal of Bilingualism page: on SAGE Journals Online:
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23 Jan 2019 09:30
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 01:52