An Analysis of Communicative Language Functions in the Speech Patterns of Bilingual Korean and Mexican Immigrant Children

Publisher: Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, vol. 5, no. 2
Sep 26, 2016
Jin Sook Lee, Jane Y. Choi, and Laura Marqués-Pascual
For children from immigrant families, opportunities to develop additive bilingualism exist, yet bilingual attainment has varied widely. Given the significance of language development opportunities in home settings, this study examines the home language use of 20 second-generation children (ages 6-8) of Mexican and Korean descent in the United States. Using a language function framework, we provide a descriptive analysis of the communicative functions performed by these children and how their proficiency level, the interlocutors, and their home settings may influence their language use. Data include English and heritage language proficiency assessments, interviews with children and their mothers, and multiple video recordings of home interactions.  Findings show little variation in the kinds of language functions performed by these children who mainly used language to convey or seek factual information, unless they were involved in imaginary play.  Moreover, children found creative ways to communicate different linguistic functions as needed, even among those with limited proficiency. Interestingly, the Mexican American children had a greater tendency to use more heritage language in the home than the Korean American children, who used more English. The children rarely engaged in intersentential code-switching.  Implications for educators, parents, and researchers are discussed.