Features of school language use in the input of caretakers to Turkish children in first and second language

Rian Aarts, Serpil Demir

Tilburg University, Netherlands, The


Features of school language use in the input of caretakers to Turkish children in first and second language

Adequate development of children's language abilities depends on many factors, one being the input they receive (Tomasello, 2000; Huttenlocher et al., 2002). The effect of the kind of input children are exposed to seems to be largest in specific registers of language use like academic or school language. This register involves the use of language for cognitively complex, explicit and decontextualized communication. When children enter school, they are expected to participate in situations where this kind of language use is demanded. Some children may be well prepared for this, since they have had experiences with this register in their home environment, while others are not.

Studies investigating bilingual settings in which the home language of the children is not the language of schooling, generally focused on children’s abilities in the second language and explained problems by means of inadequate exposure to the majority language in the preschool period. Exposure to the school language register in the native language at home and similarities and differences between the language experiences of children at home and school regarding this register is yet to be explored.

In this paper we report on a part of a longitudinal research project focusing on the development of academic language of Dutch, Moroccan-Berber and Turkish three- to six-year-old children in the Netherlands. We focus on the language input to Turkish four-year old children in two contexts and in two languages: their home environment that offers input in their mother tongue (Turkish) and the school environment offering input in their second language (Dutch).

We will deal with three aspects of school language, each exemplifying one of the general characteristics of the academic register (Schleppegrell, 2004): level of abstraction (decontextualization), reference to time and space (explicitness), and clause combining (complexity). These characteristics will be compared in the two different languages under investigation, Turkish and Dutch.

Data of ten Turkish children participating in a book-reading task at home and in school will be explored. The input of mothers and teachers will be analysed using the measures of reference to time and space, abstraction level and clause combining. Therefore, the research questions are:

1. Can decontextualization, explicitness and complexity, as characteristics of academic language, be found in the first language input of mothers at home and are there differences between mothers in the use of these features?

2. Can these characteristics be found in the second language input of teachers in school and are there differences between teachers in the use of these features?

3. What are similarities and differences in the first language input of mothers and the second language input of teachers?


Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., Cymerman, E. & Levine, S. (2002). Language input and child syntax. Cognitive Psychology, 45, 337-374.

Schleppegrell, M.J. (2004). The language of schooling. A functional linguistics perspective. Mahwah/London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Tomasello, M. (2000). Do young children have adult syntactic competence? Cognition 74, 209-253.

Session: Paper session
Bilingual Education 2
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 08