Language, Place and Identity: exploring children's linguistic and cognitive development in heritage and community languages

Project description

Project Description

Languages are central concerns for Scotland and beyond. Languages are particularly important in the current migration crisis, ever-increasing globalisation, and for personal identity, social culture and heritage. Recent cognitive science research demonstrates the advantages of early multilingualism on capacity for language use and cognitive skills. Yet some aspects of this research are inconclusive or inconsistent because associated factors supporting or undermining the benefits of multilingualism are hardly explored – such as family and community attitudes, socio-economic background, and the valuing (or not) of community and heritage languages. We will bring the potential of social sciences’ concepts and methodology to debates about the benefits of multilingualism, as ideally suited to unlock the puzzle of these inconsistent results by exploring such explanatory factors. This project will start a large-scale research programme, with findings that will inform future methodologies and substantive trajectories. The project will explore children’s experiences of and perspectives on multilingualism, across the domains of family, community and school.  Over 12 months, it will work in 2 locations (City of Edinburgh and Benbecula, Western Isles), with 2 primary schools that offer explicit support for a multilingual intake of children including Gaelic, French, German, Polish and Russian as well as English. The project will use ethnographic observation, group work with children, individual and family interviews in both locations.  We will consider how the results from this fieldwork compare with the standard cognitive science tests on multilingualism, which the children involved will also undertake. The final analysis will set the groundwork for the future research programme.