How do siblings shape the language environment in bilingual families?

Macleroy Obied, Vicky. 2009. How do siblings shape the language environment in bilingual families? International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12(6), pp. 705-720. ISSN 1367-0050 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article investigates the home literacy practices of Portuguese-English bilingual children raised in Portugal. The ethnographic research was inspired by experience with bilingual families, whose children were all of school age, so acquisition of literacy in English as the non-school language had surfaced as an issue. The research opens up new ground on exactly how siblings shift the language balance in the home and build bridges or barriers to language acquisition. The research explores whether parents are able to promote both languages in the home due to the cross-cultural experiences of siblings in the home and community and whether there are additional issues where there is a single parent with the minority language. My research findings demonstrate that in the Portuguese-English bilingual families there may be conflicts due to the arrival of a younger sibling and a language shift towards Portuguese, or older siblings may act as mediators of both languages in the home and support the younger sibling's emerging biliteracy. My research indicates that shared sibling support needs to be learnt, encouraged and supported in home literacy practices, rather than parents expecting such support to appear naturally.

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biliteracy; childhood bilingualism; language shift; language choice

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies



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Date Deposited:

23 Sep 2010 12:27

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 09:35

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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