A study of child-directed speech in a Sinhala-English bilingual household

This study investigated parents talk to a young child in a Sinhala/English bilingual household in Sri Lanka. The household consists of two children but the recorded data mainly consists of interactions between the parents and one child.

I was interested in exploring the type of language used in speaking to children in a bilingual household where English is the mother‟s second language. Using spontaneous language data collected by the parents over one month, the language used by the mother, especially Sinhala child directed speech and the type of grammatical features and phonological modifications made to English were examined. The mother‟s language was important in determining the potential influence of the input on the output of the children. The findings suggest that there is a tendency to use code-switching when the children switch to Sinhala. Although at times the father appears to encourage a more monolingual context, overall, code-switching is seen as a positive phenomenon.

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