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The schooling factor and its impact on the attainment of second dialect competence: evidence from dialect-speaking children in Cyprus

Abstract/Résumé: The present-day sociolinguistic situation in the Cypriot Greek community involves the parallel use of two linguistic varieties: the local Cypriot Greek (CG) dialect and the official, codified Standard Modern Greek (SMG) language. While CG is the spoken everyday language of the CGs, it is banned from the Cyprus education system which enforces single standard-instruction by promoting systematic learning of the SMG. As soon as CG children enter primary school they start receiving language teaching in and about SMG so that they attain native-like literacy skills solely in the standard variety (Papapavlou and Pavlou 2005). The degree to which the anachronistic, monodialectal Cyprus education system achieves this goal is what this paper aims to explore. Existing research (Yiakoumetti 2006; Tsiplakou, 2007; Sophocleous, 2011) shows that the effectiveness of the local education system to facilitate acquisition of the standard is doubtful at best. CG students’ standard performance is still lacking compared to their monolingual Greek peers. Dialectal interference is present in oral and/or written speech not only in the early years of children’s schooling but also in the final year of primary education. In relation to these findings, the present study employs a metalinguistic judgement and sets out to evaluate the students’ ability to distinguish between their first (D1) and second dialect (D2) by recognising their contrastive grammatical features. On the basis of a grammaticality judgement test which addresses all core levels of linguistic analysis, fifth grade students are called upon to decide whether a sentence is standard-formed or incorporates dialect-specific elements and, in a second stage, correct the deviant forms. The significance of the study is twofold: i) provides a direct measure of CGs nativeness in the SMG language and ii) evaluates the impact of the schooling factor in the attainment of second dialect competence. Papapavlou, A., & Pavlou, P. (2005). Literacy and Language-in-Education Policy in Bidialectal Settings. Current Issues in Language Planning, 6(2), 164-181. Sophocleous, A. (2011). Two Languages in the Classroom: The Inconsistency Between National and Local Objectives of Formal Education in Cyprus. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 10(4), 266-281. Tsiplakou, S. (2007). Langauge variation in the Cypriot language classroom and its implications for education. In A. Papapavlou & P. Pavlou (Eds.), Sociolinguistic and Padagogical Dimensions of Dialects in Education (pp. 236-264). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Yiakoumetti, A. (2006). A bidialectal programme for the learning of Standard Modern Greek in Cyprus. Applied Linguistics, 27(2), 295-317.