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Dimensions and measurement of bilinguality and bilingualism

In this chapter first we define the relevant dimensions of bilinguality and bilingualism on the basis of the empirical evidence available in these fields. In the second part we enumerate the main different measures developed in order to try to quantify the relevant concepts. 2.1 DIM ENSIONS OF BILINGUALITY AND BILINGUALISM

When qualifiers are used to describe bilingualism or bilinguality, they generally focus on one single dimension of these phenomena which are thereby viewed from a particular angle. If we use some of the classifications put forward by researchers it is because they seem to us to be relevant to the dimension under study; however, we must not lose sight of the fact that bilinguality and bilingualism are multidimensional phenomena which must be investigated as such. In the past, failure to take into account simultaneously other dimensions in addition to linguistic ones has all too often led to incomplete or erroneous interpretations of these phenomena. 2.1.1 Dimensions of bilingmlity

In Chapter 1 we made a distinction between bilingualism and bilingual ity. We view bilinguality as the psychological state of an individual who has access to more than one linguistic code as a means of social com munication. This access is multidimensional as it varies along a number of psychological and sociological dimensions. We have found the follow ing dimensions relevant: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) relative competence; cognitive organisation; age of acquisition; exogeneity; social cultural status; and cultural identity.

(For a summary of these dimensions see Table 2.1.)

T able 2.1
D im ension

S u m m ary table o f psychological dim ensions of bilinguality (H am ers & Blanc, 1989)
Type of bilinguality (a) balanced bilinguality (b) dom inant bilinguality (a) com pound bilinguality (b) coordinate bilinguality Com ments* L V1 com petence = LW2 com petence L ^ , com petence > or < Lg(J com petence L ^ j unit equivalent to Lwa unit = one conceptual unit LW1 unit = one conceptual unit 1 L8/, equivalent = one conceptual unit 2 L i /2 acquired before age o f 10/11 La and L = m other tongues L , - m other tongue: La acquired before 11 La = acquired between 11 and 17 Lj = acquired after 17 presence o f L , com m unity absence of L , com m unity L A;t and LB/2 socially valorised -* cognitive advantage L j valorised at expense L , -* cognitive disadvantage double m embership and bicultural identity La(, membership and cultural identity L ,/- membership and cultural identity am biguous membership and anom ic identity

1. according to com petence in both languages

2. according to cognitive organisation

3. according to age o f acquisition

(a) childhood bilinguality (i) sim ultaneous (ii) consecutive (b) adolescent bilinguality (c) adult bilinguality (a) endogenous bilinguality (b) exogenous bilinguality (a) additive bilinguality (b) subtractivc bilinguality (a) (b) (c) (d) bicultural bilinguality L , m onocultura! bilinguality L2 acculturated bilinguality deculturated hilingualtiy

4. according to presence o f L , com m unity in environment 5. according to the relative status o f the two languages 6. according to group membership and cultural identity

* F or an explanation o f LA, L * L t, L 2, see p. 372

Dimensions of bilinguality and bilingualism


(1) The dimension of competence enables us to take into account the relative nature of bilinguality, since it focuses on the relationship between two linguistic competences, one in each language. A distinction has been made between the balanced bilingual who has equivalent competence in both languages and the dominant bilingual for whom competence in one of the languages, more often the mother tongue, is superior to his competence in the other (Lambert, 1955). Balanced bilinguality should not be confused with a very high degree of competence in the two languages; it is rather a question of a state of equilibrium reached by the levels of competence attained in the two languages as compared to monolingual competence. Equivalent competence should not be equated with the ability to use both languages for all functions and domains. Dominance or balance is not equally distributed for all domains and functions of language; each individ ual has his own dominance configuration. (2) Regardless of the state of equilibrium, bilinguality may differ on other dimensions. For example, age and context of acquisition may lead to differences in cognitive functioning. Ervin & Osgood (1954) distinguished between compound and coordinate language systems: in a compound system two sets of linguistic signs come to be associated with the same set of meanings whereas, in a coordinate system, translation equivalents in the two languages correspond to two different sets of representations. This distinction is schematised in Figure 2.1. This distinction, often misinterpreted in the literature, has to do with a difference of cognitive organisation and not with a difference in the degree of competence, or a difference in the age or context of acquisition. Al though there is a high correlation between the type of cognitive organisa tion, age and context of acquisition, there is no one-to-one correspondence between the form of cognitive representation and the age of acquisition; indeed, an individual who learned both languages as a child in the same context is more likely to have a single cognitive representation for two translation equivalents, whereas one who learned an L2 in a context different from that of his L, will probably have a coordinate organisation, that is, he will have separate representations for two translation equival ents. However, for operational purposes, age and context of acquisition are often used in order to identify the two types of bilinguals. This misinter pretation is often made, even by specialists in bilingual studies who, while noting the relation between age and context of acquisition and type of bilinguality, forget that the distinction refers essentially to differences in semantic organisation in the bilingual (see, for example, Ervin & Osgood, 1954, Fishman, 1964; Gumper?, 1964a; Dodson, 1983). It must be stressed that this distinction is not absolute but that different forms of bilinguality are distributed along a continuum from a compound pole to a coordinate


Dimensions and measurement

C o o rd in a te bilinguality

L i family 1 -------------- co n cept FAMILY

concept FAMILLE L 2 'famille' ------------

Figure 2.1 Schematic representation of the compound-coordinate distinction (adapted from Ervin & Osgood, 1954)

pole: a bilingual person can at the same time be more compound for certain concepts and more coordinate for others. This distinction is further ex plored in Section (3) The age of acquisition plays a part not only in respect of cognitive representation but also in other aspects of the bilinguals development, particularly his linguistic, neuropsychological, cognitive and sociocultural development. Age of acquisition combines with other data from the sub jects language biography, such as context of acquisition and use of the two languages. Indeed, age and context often go together for instance, early acquisition of two languages often occurs in the same family context, while later acquisition of the second language often takes place in a school context distinct from a family context for the first language. A distinction must first be made between childhood bilinguality, adoles cent bilinguality and adult bilinguality. In the first of these bilingual experience takes place at the same time as the general development of the child; in other words this bilingual experience occurs at the time when the various developmental components have not yet reached maturity and can therefore be influenced by this experience. In childhood bilinguality one must distinguish: (a) simultaneous early or infant bilinguality when the child develops two mother tongues from the onset of language, which we call LAand L& as for example the child of a mixed-lingual family; and (b) consecutive childhood bilinguality when he acquires a second lan guage early in childhood but after the basic linguistic acquisition of

Dimensions of bilinguality and bilingualism


his mother tongue has been achieved. In this case and in all other cases of consecutive bilingual acquisition we refer to the mother tongue as L, and to the second language as L2.

While the development of simultaneous bilinguality takes place through informal, unintentional learning, consecutive childhood bilinguality may occur informally, as in the case of the child of an im m igrant family, b u t m ay also result from intentional learning, as in certain bilingual educational programs. Another important difference between simultaneous and con secutive bilinguality concerns the form-function mapping: in the case of simultaneous bilinguality the child has to map two forms onto one func tion; we refer to this as compound mapping. In consecutive bilinguality simple mapping (one linguistic form) occurs before the acquisition of the second language for the functions acquired already. (4) According to whether the speech communities of both languages are present or not in the childs social environment, we refer to either en dogenous or exogenous bilinguality. An endogenous language is one that is used as a mother tongue in a community and may or may not be used for institutional purposes, whereas an exogenous language is one that is used as an official, institutionalised language but has no speech community in the political entity using it officially. Examples of exogenous languages are English or French in West, Central and East African countries; a Benin child from Cotonou, speaking Fon at home and going to a school where French is the exclusive language of instruction develops an exogenous bilinguality in Fon and French. (5) In respect of cognitive development, the type of bilinguality is also dependent on the sociocultural environment, in particular the relative status of the two languages in the community. According to whether the two languages are socially valued in his environm ent, the child will develop different forms of bilinguality. If the two languages are sufficiently valued, the childs cognitive development will derive maximum benefit from the bilingual experience, which will act as an enriching stimulation leading to greater cognitive flexibility compared to his monolingual counterpart; on the other hand, if the sociocultural context is such that the mother tongue is devalued in the childs environment, his cognitive development may be delayed in comparison with a monolingual peers; in extreme cases, the bilingual child may not be able to make up for this delay. The former type of bilingual experience has been called additive bilinguality; the latter subtractive bilinguality (I-ambert, 1974). This distinction relates to the conceptual-linguistic consequences of the sociocultural context of bilingual development.


Dimensions and measurement

(6) Finally, bilinguals can be distinguished in terms of their cultural identity. A bilingual may identify positively with the two cultural groups that speak his languages and be recognised by each group as a member: in this case he is also bicultural. This cultural identity integrating two cultures is probably, at the socio-affective level, the analogue of additive bilinguality at the cognitive level. A balanced biculturalism often goes hand in hand with a balanced bilinguality. However, this is not necessarily the case: in multilingual societies, for example, a multiple cultural membership can coexist with varying degrees of dominant bilingual competence. A high bilingual competence does not always mean a cultural identity with dual cultural membership; a person may become a fluent bilingual while re maining monocultural and identifying culturally with only one of the groups. Bilingual development can also lead a person to renounce the cultural identity of his mother-tongue group and adopt that of the secondlanguage group, in which case he will become an L2-acculturated bilingual. Sometimes, however, the bilingual may give up his own cultural identity but at the same time fail to identify with the L2 cultural group, and as a result become anomic and deculturated (Berry, 1980). Bilinguality has also been described in terms of language use. Weinreich (1953) and Mackey (1962) define bilingualism as the alternate use of two or more languages by the same individual. However, use is not a single dimension but the expression of one or more dimensions of bilinguality. The notion o fuse means that the bilingual individual has the capacity to call on either language, and this implies that he must have a minimal competence in both languages. Use will tell us whether a bilingual person is more or less dominant in one or the other of his languages for a specific domain or topic. Dodson (1981) proposes the term preferred language to account for choice of language in a particular situation. 2.1.2 Dimensions of socictal bilingualism

Sociolinguists have shown how monolingual behaviour varies according to a number of parameters such as, e.g. role relation, relative status of speakers and languages, topic, domain, etc. (see, for example, Ervin-Tripp, 1964a; Fishman, 1965; Labov, 1966; Fishman, 1972). It can be assumed that these variables apply to language-contact situations and that the state of bilinguality interacts with these. The bilingual's language behaviour varies according to whether he interacts with a monolingual or a bilingual interlocutor in a unilingual, bilingual or multilingual environment. When a person bilingual in Lx, LY encounters a monolingual interlocu tor in a unilingual community speaking Lx, he will follow the social and

Dimensions of bilinguality and bilingualism


linguistic norms of the Lx community. If he encounters a bilingual person like himself (Lx, Ly) in a similar setting, the two people can follow the unilingual norms of either community or they can create their own set of language norms, as the community defines only the monolingual behav iour norms of L*. In a multilingual community, on the other hand, a set of norms exists defining bilingual behaviour. For a bilingual community to exist there must be at least two languages commonly used by some members of the community. Either the community is com posed of two groups speaking two different languages as their mother tongue along with a small number of bilinguals speaking both languages, or a small number of both groups speaking a third common language, used as a lingua franca; or, as in the case of an exogenous language, some members of the community speak a second language that has no or few native speakers in the community. Any of these languages may be an official language of the community. Every bilingual community is situated between the two poles of a continuum, ranging from a set made up of two unilingual groups each containing a small number of bilinguals, to a single group with a more or less large number of members using a second language for specific pur poses. At one pole most speakers in each group use only one language for all functions, whereas at the other a varying number of speakers use both languages but for different purposes. One can distinguish the following typical cases: (1) Territorial bilingualism, in which each group finds itself mostly within its own politically defined territory, with the two (or more) languages having official status in their own territory; the official status of the other national language(s) varies considerably from country to coun try. Examples of territorial bilingualism can be found in Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Canada and India, each country applying the principle of territorial bilingualism in its own way. (2) Another case of bilingual communities can be found in multilingual countries of Africa and Asia where, beside the native languages of indigenous ethnic groups o r nations, one or more languages of wider communication exist cutting across these groups and nations native to none o r few of them; this can be either a lingua franca, which is like Swahili in Eastern and Central Africa and Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea, or a superposed language imposed by political decision-mak ing which introduces an exogenous language, normally inherited from a colonial past and used only in certain official domains, as is the case with French or English in several African countries.


Dimensions and measurement

(3) Finally, a bilingual community can be described as diglossic, that is, two languages are spoken by a variable section of the population, but they are used in a complementary way in the community, one lan guage or variety having a higher status than the other and being reserved for certain functions and domains. Examples of diglossic bilingualism are the use of Spanish and Guarani in Paraguay and of French and Creole in Haiti. In these cases both languages have a significant group of native speakers in the com m unity. Let us stress that monolinguality is more commonly found in economi cally dominant groups whereas the members of minority or subordinate groups tend to be bilingual or multilingual. Minority does not necessarily imply numerical inferiority, but refers rather to a subordinate status in the community. However, a subordinate group can use its numerical superiority to impose its own language norms through language-planning legislation which aims at ending the subordinate status of that group; in this case the formerly dominant group undergoes a minorisation process. To the extent that a communitys ethnolinguistic duality is officially recognised, the community sets up a number of institutions in order to manage the use of both languages. Inside these institutions members of the different language groups may use one language, which can be a language of the community, a lingua franca, or an exogenous language; alternatively, several languages from the community may be used to a varying extent, as for example when two members of different language groups speak to each other in their respective languages; in this case each understands but does not necessarily speak the others language, or if they do not understand each others language they make use of an interpreter. The various dimensions of bilinguality and bilingualism which we have briefly defined bring out the multidimensional nature of these phenom ena. We have called upon notions taken from a variety of disciplines: psychology, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, sociology and linguistics. Bilingualism must be approached as a complex phenomenon which sim ultaneously implies a state of bilinguality of individuals and a state of languages in contact at the collective level. Therefore, this phenomenon should be studied at several levels of analysis: individual, interpersonal, intergroup and societal. Even though the several disciplines involved in the study of bilingualism have developed different methodologies, they all share the problem of operationalising and measuring the concepts they make use of. In the next section we will discuss some of the measures developed by the various disciplines to quantify the dimensions of bilin guality and bilingualism.