"Researching children's acquisition of sociolinguistic competence" by Carmel O'Shannessy
By Robin Queen
Oct 27, 2013
Carmel O'Shannessy has a chapter in the recently published book: Research methods in Sociolinguistics, Edited by Janet Holmes and Kirk Hazen (Wiley Blackwell). The volume provides details about techniques for research for many different areas of Sociolinguistics. Carmel's chapter is "Researching children's acquisition of sociolinguistic competence".
Summary of the chapter: Children’s development of sociolinguistic knowledge is integral to the question of how complex language skills develop in humans. Multiple research strategies are needed to build a comprehensive picture of children’s speech environments and how children’s competence develops within them. Qualitative and quantitative methods are used to gather information about the speech communities into which children are socialized as well as details of children’s language development. In some cases adult speech to children differs from that to other adults, so interactions with children, specifically, must be analyzed. Methods which work well with adults need to be adapted when working with children. Creating playful contexts is a useful way of eliciting naturalistic language from children. Play scenarios and attractive activities can be created by researchers so that there are opportunities for children to produce the particular variables under study. Similarly, engaging activities can be created to tap into children’s language ideologies and processing mechanisms.