Carly Steele, PhD completion seminar - Exploring a ‘contrastive approach’ to second dialect acquisition

Many Indigenous students throughout Australia speak an Indigenous dialect of English as their first language, with Standard Australian English (AusE) learned as a second dialect upon entering the Australian schooling system. However, Indigenous dialects systematically differ from AusE at all levels of language (e.g. phonology, vocabulary, morphology, syntax, discourse and semantics), as a result, this goal is not always realised.

Several explanations have been proposed for this. Schmidt’s Noticing Hypothesis (1990) suggests that in the process of acquiring a second dialect, learners often fail to “notice” dialect differences and, hence, do not acquire them. Long (2007) and Seigel (2010b) posit this is because the differences between a dialect and the standard are communicatively redundant and therefore difficult to acquire because they do not impact on comprehension. Hudson and Berry (1997) argue that for a child who speaks Aboriginal English, “learning English” may not be a meaningful activity. Others point out that the acquisition of the standard is frequently stigmatized in Indigenous communities (Sellwood & Angelo, 2013; Malcolm & Konigsberg, 2001). Understanding this process is crucial to inform teaching approaches to second dialect instruction.

In this thesis, firstly, Indigenous primary school aged children in Far North Queensland who spoke English as an additional language and/or dialect (EAL/D) (n = 54) participated in two tasks designed to understand whether dialect differences were noticed: elicited imitation of AusE target sentences and an alternative forced choice task that asked participants whether two utterances were, verbatim, the “same” or “different”. Results were compared with native monolingual AusE speakers (n = 44) who did the same tasks. Secondly, a teaching intervention of 3 lessons that employed the ‘contrastive approach’ to second dialect acquisition was conducted with Yarrie Lingo speaking participants in years 1, 3 and 5 (n = 27) to explore differences between Yarrie Lingo and AusE and hopefully, improve participants’ ability to “notice” the differences.

Friday 5th June, 3:15pm

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