Bilingualism, Language Profiency, and Metalinguistic Development
Jim Cummins Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
By "metalinguistic development" I refer to both the development of children's awareness of certain properties of language and their ability to analyze linguistic input, i.e., to make the language forms the objects of focal attention and to look at language rather than through it to the intended meaning. Early investigators of children's language development have speculated that access to two languages in early childhood might promote an awareness of linguistic operations and a more analytic orientation to linguistic input. Vygotsky ( 1935, 1962), for example, argued that being able to express the same thought in different languages enables the child to "see his language as one particular system among many, to view its phenomena under more general categories, and this leads to awareness of his linguistic operations" ( 1962, p. 110). In an earlier work directly concerned with multilingualism in children, Vygotsky ( 1935) suggested that when the application of sound pedagogical principles ensured that each language had an independent sphere of influence, bilingualism could orient the child toward more abstract thought processes "from the prison of concrete language forms and phenomena" (p.14). Leopold ( 1949) and Imedadze ( 1960) have both argued on the basis of observational studies of children's simultaneous acquisition of two languages that bilingualism can accelerate the separation of name and object and can focus the child's attention on certain aspects of language. In more recent years, Lambert and Tucker ( 1972) suggested that the experimental group in the St. Lambert bilingual education project had learned to engage in a form of contrastive lin
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Publication information: Book title: Childhood Bilingualism:Aspects of Linguistic, Cognitive, and Social Development. Contributors: Peter Homel - Editor, Michael Palij - Editor, Doris Aaronson - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 57.
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