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Title: An investigation of the influence of sociolinguistic factors on children's first language in Jordan
Author: Al-Malahmeh, Dima
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 3656
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis presents an investigation of the potential effect of sociolinguistic factors on the acquisition of Arabic by 22 four-year-old children in Jordan. The focus of the current thesis is on Arabic-English bilingual children acquiring English in their early childhood alongside Arabic. The three main extra-linguistic factors under study are: parental attitudes towards Arabic and English, the input children receive in both languages, and the presence of foreign domestic helpers in the household (speaking English or pidgin Arabic). At first, data was collected in a naturalistic session in the first visit and three elicitation tasks conducted in the second visit. In addition, a time 2 vocabulary test adapted from Shaalan (2010) with amendments was run a year and a half later for 12 children. Besides the data from children, an attitudinal questionnaire was filled by the parents towards Arabic and English to measure their attitudes towards the two languages under study and elicit input children receive. This thesis reports on children's Arabic mainly in terms of phonology and morpho-syntax. In terms of phonology, I examined children's pronunciation of Arabic sounds not found in English (e.g. emphatics, pharyngeals, and uvulars) and their ability to assimilate the definite article /al-/ when needed. Regarding morpho-syntax, I tested children's ability in: dual and plural forms in Arabic, gender agreement, word order and the gender of the second person pronoun. In addition, I looked at children's code-switching between Arabic and English. Results indicate that reported attitudes do not seem to explain children's results. The reported input shows that the more English children hear the more errors they make mainly in forming numbers, the gender of the second pronoun and word order, and the more they code-mix. As for the recorded input, the more English the mothers speak, the more errors children make in assimilating the definite article and forming duals and plurals, and the more they switch to English in their speech. On the other hand, the more Arabic the children hear, the fewer errors they make in these variables. When looking at the presence of the domestic helpers, it has been found that children raised in households with domestic helpers (regardless of the language they speak) make errors in pronunciation, the assimilation of the definite article, forming numbers and gender agreement. When comparing children raised in households with domestic helpers speaking English and those raised in households with domestic helpers speaking pidgin Arabic, results show that those with domestic helpers speaking English make more errors in the assimilation of the definite article, forming duals and plurals and the gender of the second person pronoun. In the time 2 vocabulary test, no difference is found in the total vocabulary size for children who are exposed to English more than Arabic and those who are exposed to more Arabic. When looking at the vocabulary size of both groups in one language (i.e. Arabic), no significant difference is found. This result might indicate that some children act as typical bilinguals. It has been also found that children who were raised in households with domestic helpers speaking English scored higher in the English test than their peers.
Supervisor: Keren-Portnoy, Tamar Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available