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A survey of bilingual language networks
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Saravanan, V. (1999). A survey of bilingual language networks. In S. P. Loo (Ed.), Proceeds of the MERA-ERA Joint conference 1999: Educational Challenges in the New Millennium (pp. 864-870). Malacca, Malaysia.
This reports on a study of language use patterns of bilingual Chinese, Malay and
Tamil families. It attempts to survey and understand the functional and social interactional
behaviour of bilingual speakers. Patterns of language use analysed using network indices, (Li
Wei, 1994) distinguished two types of network: occupation-oriented and generation-oriented
networks. If the majority of one's frequent interlocutors are of the same occupation, then the
speaker has an occupation-oriented network. If the majority of one's frequent interlocutors are
of the same generation, then the speaker has generation-oriented network. Each generation
develops its own set of networks depending on the interlocutors. This study surveys bilingual
and trilingual networks, as well as the range of bilingual networks speakers in the community
have contact with and establish. Case studies will be presented to illustrate network types and
patterns of language use in various families. When for instance, do parents choose to speak
dialect? When do parents choose Mandarin and when do they choose English? The findings
have implications for inter-generational transmission of language and culture. What the
patterns of interaction show is the extent of maintenance of community languages. Families
which have fewer contacts with extended familial relations of grandparents, aunts and uncles
will find it more difficult to maintain their mother tongues compared to families which belong
to an active familial network that includes the grandparent generation.
This paper was published in the 1999 Proceedings of the MERA-ERA Joint Conference held at Malacca, Malaysia from 1-3 December 1999
Appears in Collections:Conference Papers

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