Spor av språkbrudd : En studie av internasjonalt adopterte barns språkferdigheter på 5. trinn
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The topic of this article-based PhD dissertation is internationally-adopted (abbreviated to IA) children`s language. IA children have an atypical language development. They begin to acquire the first language (L1) at birth, in fact before birth, but regardless of the age at adoption/age at arrival (abbreviated to AA) the first language development is interrupted when they are adopted by families that speak a different language than the child`s L1. In the country of arrival, IA children thus experience delayed exposure to the adoption language (L2) and apparently lose their L1 completely after a short amount of time. The purpose of this thesis is to generate more insight into IA children`s language in the 5th grade of Norwegian primary school. A specific focus lies on the importance of adoption age in order to increase our understanding of age effects in early second language learning. Although the age of the learner has long been regarded as a key factor in language learning and has long been debated in second language acquisition (SLA) research, it is still unclear to what extent and in what way delayed exposure to L2 the first years of life has long-term consequences for children´s eventual language learning outcomes. This also includes internationally-adopted children (Abrahamsson and Hyltenstam 2009: 295, Genesee 2016: 2). In order to gain more insight into IA children`s language, I have studied the language skills of IA children (n = 52) aged 10–11 years at varying adoption ages and compared the results to the language skills of a control group of non-adopted monolingual Norwegian-born peers (n = 52) of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. The age of the IA children at their arrival in Norway varies from 5 months to 98 months (m = 28.2, SD = 24.3) and the average time of residence in Norway was 8.4 years (SD = 25.3 months) at the time of language testing. The empirical data consist of scores in the Norwegian version (Rygvold and Monsrud 2013) of the standardized language test Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals - Fourth Edition (CELF-4) (Semel, Wiig and Secord 2003) and written narratives produced by the children. The narratives are based on the wordless picture book Frog, where are you? (Mayer 1969). Background information about the children and their families was collected through a questionnaire. The thesis´s theoretical framework is based on findings and theories on the importance of age in second language learning (Abrahamsson and Hyltenstam 2004, Meisel 2011, Herschensohn 2013). The thesis is also based on theory and research from other disciplines with an interest in IA´s language and development (e.g. special education, speech therapy and cognitive neuroscience). The written narratives produced by the internationally-adopted children are analyzed in light of typical features in L2 learning. The narratives are also considered in light of frameworks in structuralist narratology and research on narrative development (Ragnarsdóttir 1991, Berman and Slobin 1994). The thesis´s three studies are presented in three articles. Overall, the studies – each with different methodological approaches – highlight various aspects of the following overarching research question: How are the language skills of internationally-adopted children in the 5th grade of primary school compared to non-adopted monolingual Norwegian-born peers of similar socioeconomic status? This overarching research question is concretized through sub-questions that are elucidated in each article. Article I, Internationally-adopted children's language skills in the 5th grade. What is the effect of the adoption age?, deals with language skills of IA children and non-adopted peers with CELF-4. The study is based on measurable average scores at index level, and the data is analyzed statistically. Among various variables, age at adoption is included as the main explanation variable in a hierarchical block-wise regression analysis in an attempt to explain the variation in scores on the test´s main index, an index that measures basic language skills. The research questions are: 1) Do internationally-adopted children in the 5th grade perform differently, and if so, in what way, than non-adopted Norwegian-born peers from a similar socioeconomic background on the standardized language test CELF-4?, 2) Does the internationally-adopted children´s age at adoption correlate with achieved index scores on the standardized language test CELF-4?, and 3) Do early adopted (< 36 months) children perform similarly to non-adopted monolingual Norwegian-born peers of similar socioeconomic status on the main index of the standardized language test CELF-4? In article II, Grammatical features and lexical choices in narratives written by internationally-adopted children in the 5th grade, the method moves from a quantitative to a more qualitative dimension. The study gives an insight into the development of writing competence with regard to the following linguistic phenomena: 1) gender allocation, 2) syntax, 3) prepositions 4) vocabulary and 5) the verb go (verb of movement). Non-conformities and errors in these linguistic areas are regarded as typical L2 learner errors (Mitchell, Myles and Marsden 2013, Ortega 2013a). In other words, the study focuses on similarities between the IA children´s written language and the target language, and how precisely they refer to objects that appear in the picture book Frog, where are you? The research questions are: 1) Are there any differences in the written language of internationally-adopted children and non-adopted monolingual Norwegian-born peers of a similar socioeconomic background?, and 2) Which grammatical features potentially distinguish those texts, and how do these texts differ lexically in case there are differences in the children’s competences to express themselves precisely? In article III, Narrative structure in narratives written by internationally-adopted children in the 5th grade, the written narratives still constitute the database, but the focus is now on a different dimension than the linguistic and lexical one. In this study, I investigate whether the IA and the Norwegian-born establish comparable narrative structures, and I identify features of the narrative structure that show any differences. The research questions are: 1) Are there any differences in the narrative structure and context in the written narratives of internationally-adopted children and non-adopted monolingual Norwegian-born peers of a similar socioeconomic background?, and 2) Which narrative features potentially distinguish those texts written by the children in the two groups? Regarding the importance of age in language learning, this thesis`s results indicate that age at adoption has a significant importance between 4–10 years after adoption (cf. medium-term effects, Norrman et al. 2016). The language of the IA children may appear to contain more subtle grammatical and lexical deviations than the language of the Norwegian-born controls. Moreover, the narrative structure seems to be weaker in the narratives written by the IA children.
Består avPaper I: Schjetne, Nina. Internasjonalt adopterte barns språkferdigheter på 5. trinn. Hvilken effekt har adopsjonsalderen? The article is not available in BORA.
Paper II: Schjetne, Nina. 2017. Grammatiske trekk og leksikalske valg i narrativer skrevet av internasjonalt adopterte barn på 5. trinn. NOA – tidsskrift for norsk som andrespråk, 33(2), 30–64. The article is available in the main thesis. The article is also available at: http://ojs.novus.no/index.php/NOA/article/view/1423
Paper III: Schjetne, Nina. 2017. Narrativ struktur i fortellinger skrevet av internasjonalt adopterte barn på 5. trinn. Nordand – Nordisk tidsskrift for andrespråksforskning, 12(2), 114–133. The article is not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The published version is available at: https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.2535-3381-2017-02-02