Language evaluation and use during early childhood: Adhesion to social norms or integration of environmental regularities?

Abstract : Whether social uses of language, in concert with their acquisition, are driven by the awareness of the social value assigned to linguistic variants remains unanswered. The present study examines how 185 French native speakers, aged from 2 to 6 years from different social backgrounds, produce and evaluate a well-known French phonological alternation, the liaison: obligatory liaisons, which are categorical and do not vary sociolinguistically for adults, and variable liaisons, which are a sociolinguistic variable and are more frequently produced by higher-class adults. Different developmental and social patterns were found for obligatory and variable liaisons. Children's productions of obligatory liaisons were related to their judgments when 3-4 years old, regardless of the children's social backgrounds. However, a developmental gap was observed between higher- and lower-class children that appeared earlier in production than in evaluation. For variable liaisons, children's productions were related to their judgments, irrespective of their social backgrounds, at 4-5 years. Social differences appeared in both children's productions and judgments a year later. Although the ability to evaluate different linguistic forms emerges at an early developmental stage, the awareness of the social value of the variants does not seem to precede the ability to select the standard varieties in formal situations.
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Stéphanie Barbu, Aurélie Nardy, Jean-Pierre Chevrot, Jacques Juhel. Language evaluation and use during early childhood: Adhesion to social norms or integration of environmental regularities?. Linguistics, De Gruyter, 2013, 51 (2), pp.381 - 411. ⟨10.1515/ling-2013-0015⟩. ⟨hal-00717998v4⟩

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