Project Details
Funding Scheme : Early Career Scheme
Project Number : 21604522
Project Title(English) : Input and caretaker proficiency in early bilingual development: mothers, helpers and toddlers 
Project Title(Chinese) : 母親和外籍家庭傭工的語言程度和語言輸入在幼兒雙語發展中的作用 
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr Mai, Ziyin 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Department of Linguistics and Translation
Institution : City University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Psychology and Linguistics
Exercise Year : 2022 / 23
Fund Approved : 480,000
Project Status : On-going
Completion Date : 31-12-2024
Abstract as per original application
The quality of language input has a massive impact on the child’s language development. In Hong Kong, many young children develop knowledge in English through daily interaction with their caretakers such as mothers and Filipino domestic helpers, who speak Cantonese or Tagalog as their first language (L1) and vary in their proficiency in English, their second language (L2). Existing research shows that caretakers with ‘good’ proficiency in the L2 can provide high-quality language input for young children in that language. However, the evidence has mainly come from Spanish immigrant families in the US, using composite and indirect proficiency measures. Little do we know about the input provided by caretakers whose L1s are typologically and culturally distant from English or those in multilingual contexts like Hong Kong. To fill these gaps, this study builds on the PI’s existing projects and investigates two sources of English input directed to Cantonese-English bilingual toddlers in Hong Kong: Cantonese-L1 mothers and Tagalog-L1 helpers, with English-L1 mothers as controls. In addition to general input measures such as lexical diversity and grammatical complexity, we will closely examine the verb lexicon and tense/agreement morphology in the caretakers and the children. Research has shown that verb morphology causes persistent difficulty for both adult and child Chinese-L1 learners of L2 English. With Cantonese instantiating little inflectional morphology and Tagalog rich and complex verb morphology, it is likely that these L1 characteristics will be carried over to child-directed speech and impact on the child’s development in English differently. Adopting a Time 1/Time 2 design, this study will measure caretakers’ proficiency and input quality directly and accurately through standardized tools and caretaker-child interaction tasks at child age 2.5 years (Time 1), and assess child developmental outcomes in English and Cantonese through a battery of language and cognitive tests at age 3 (Time 2). This study will advance the frontiers of bilingual acquisition research by identifying fine-grained qualitative features of language input provided by L2 caretakers with different L1s and evaluating to what extent these features are predicted by the caretakers’ proficiency and will predict the children’s developmental outcomes at age 3 with unprecedented accuracy and precision. The findings will enable parents to reach scientifically informed decisions on whether, who and how to talk to their children in a non-native language, and have important policy implications on home-based input planning and intervention in Hong Kong, mainland China and beyond.
語言輸入的質量對孩子的語言發展有巨大的影響。在香港,很多幼兒透過與母親和外籍家庭傭工(外傭)等照顧者的日常互動來學習英語。這些照顧者的母語多爲粵語或他加祿語,而英語則是她們的第二語言,熟練程度因人而異。現有研究顯示,照顧者若具有「良好」的英語能力,則可以為幼兒提供高質量的英語輸入。但是現有的證據主要來自身處美國的西班牙移民家庭,透過綜合和間接的方式來測量這些以西班牙語為母語的母親的英文程度。而且香港作爲一個多語言環境,照顧者的母語(粵語、他加祿語)在語言類型和文化上與英語相距甚遠,關於這種照顧者的語言輸入的研究則鮮有聞之。 為了填補這個研究空白,本研究建基於主要研究者以往的研究項目,考察香港粵英雙語幼兒獲得英語輸入的兩個主要的來源:以粵語為母語的母親和以他加祿語為母語的菲律賓外傭,並與英語為母語的母親對照。除了詞彙多樣性和語法複雜性等一般輸入指標外,我們還會仔細觀察照顧者和孩子的動詞詞彙以及時態和形態一致性方面的特徵。 研究顯示,中文為母語的人士學習英文時,不論成人或兒童,英語的動詞形態都會帶來特別的困難。粵語少有屈折形態,他加祿語的動詞形態則豐富而複雜,這些特徵很可能會被帶到照顧者的英語輸入中,並以不同的方式影響兒童的英語發展。 本研究將進行兩次語言數據採集 ,首先在幼兒兩歲半時透過標準化的測量工具與對話錄影,直接及準確地量度照顧者與兒童互動時的語言熟練程度和輸入質量(第一次採集),然後在兒童三歲時透過一系列語言和認知測試來評估兒童的雙語發展(第二次採集)。本研究將首次精準地識別不同母語的照顧者所提供的英語輸入中細微的特徵,評估照顧者的語言水平在多大程度上能夠預測這些特徵以及兒童三歲時的英語發展,從而大力推進雙語學習研究的前沿。研究結果將能夠讓父母在決定是否和孩子講英文及由誰和孩子講英文時作出科學明智的決定,並對香港、中國內地及世界各地的家庭語言輸入規劃和決策產生重要意義。
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