Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, Vol 37, No 1 (2014)

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EXPLORING THE BILINGUALISM OF A MIGRANT COMMUNITY THROUGH LANGUAGE DOMINANCE

Marco Santello

Abstract


This study outlines a linguistic profile of two subgroups of Italian English circumstantial bilinguals – one dominant in English and the other dominant in Italian – by exploring for the first time their linguistic repertoire through the Gradient Bilingual Dominance Scale (Dunn & Fox Tree, 2009). Thescale takes into account language background/history, language use and phonological interference, three main clusters of indicators that make up their dominance. The analysis is further complemented by additional descriptors adapted from Marian, Blumenfeld and Kaushanskaya (2007) and Baker (2011). Over one hundred English dominants (EDs) and Italian dominants (IDs) of Italian descent living in Australia were administered a survey. Results indicate that the scores yielded by the scale broadly parallel the data on self-reported dominance. The contrastive analysis of single variables, however, reveals both discrepancies and similarities between the two groups. While both groups use and are exposed to both languages and self-report high proficiency in the four skills, EDs differ from IDs across indicators such as language attrition and phonological interference. These outcomes confirm that the examination of these subgroups of Italians through the components of their language dominance offers a concise analysis of their linguistic features that makes allowance for both the individual and the societal elements of their bilingualism.

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