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Profiling language awareness in dialect-speaking children: evidence from Cyprus

Abstract/Résumé: Language use in the Cypriot Greek (CG) community involves the use of both the Standard Modern Greek (SMG) and the non-standard CG dialect. SMG is the official, codified language of the state used for formal purposes such as administration, the media, and education while the CG dialect is the mother tongue of the CGs used for oral, informal communication. Despite the linguistic diversity characterising the CG community, the educational system has been promoting single literacy in the standard variety since its inception. As such, the dialectal first dialect (D1) has been excluded from formal education and the standard second dialect (D2) has been serving as the official means of instruction as well as the language taught to children. Despite the goal of schools to create competent speakers in the standard variety, prior research studies have shown that CG students face language problems pertaining to SMG which is highly influenced by dialectal occurrences (D1) (Rickford, 1999; Yiakoumetti, 2006; Tsiplakou, 2007). In relation to these findings, the present study employs a metalinguistic judgement and sets out to evaluate the students’ ability to distinguish between their D1 and 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. Rickford, A. E. (1999). Language diversity and academic achievement in the education of African American students-an overview of the issues. In C. T. Adger, D. Christian & O. L. Taylor (Eds.), Making the Connection: Language and academic achievement among African American students (pp. 1-30). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers. 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.