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Social networks and proficiency in Swedish: a study of bilingual adolescents in both mono- and multicultural contexts in Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

According to official statistics, bilingual students make up a disproportionate share of the students who attend individual programmes (programmes designed for students who cannot follow the ordinary national programmes) in the upper secondary school in Sweden. This seems to indicate that national programmes cause problems for many bilingual students. This situation relates to the fact that literacy in the language of schooling, proficiency in that language, cognitive development and school success are closely linked. This study investigates the importance of characteristics of social networks on proficiency in Swedish. More exactly it investigates the characteristics of individual students’ interaction with their nearest friends from different ethnic backgrounds and the frequency of a handful linguistic features typical of written and spoken texts respectively, as well as the use of Swedish in interaction. The aim of this study is twofold. One aim is to study the possible relation between social network characteristics, use of Swedish and frequency of selected features of Swedish, and, the other, to develop methods for the analyses of the informants’ network characteristics, language use and selected features of their L2 performance. Thirty-nine bilingual students participated in all parts of the study. The informants’ social networks outside the school context were defined for their density, multiplexity and for different activities and frequency of interaction with these students’ best friends from three different network orientations, namely (1) the students’ own ethnic group, (2) monolingual Swedes, and, (3) bilingual groups other than their own. Furthermore, a measure of the informants’ integration into the different groups was defined and scored, and the different interactional patterns within the networks were defined and measured. Excerpts of each informant’s production of written texts, i.e. school compositions (examples of a context-reduced and demanding register) and transcriptions of informal interviews (examples of a context-embedded and undemanding register) were analysed and scored for selected linguistic features that were correlated to network data. The frequency of the following selected linguistic features was scored, namely (1) verbal complexity: long words, mean length of words, non-recurring words and number of different words; (2) nominalisations and passive constructions (typical of context-reduced and cognitively demanding texts) and (3) first-person pronouns and negations (typical of contextembedded and cognitively undemanding texts). The study was carried out at two schools: one suburban, where bilingual students are in the majority, and one provincial, where they are in the minority. A tendency was noted that students who were more integrated into Swedish-oriented networks and whose network multiplexity was strengthened by higher frequency in interaction in networks directed towards monolingual Swedes demonstrated higher frequency of linguistic features which are typical of more advanced mastery of Swedish. The relationship between network interaction, integration and language proficiency was complex, however, and no statistically significant differences were seen among informants with different orientations of their social networks. The results point to an intricate co-variation between several social network characteristics and the selected linguistic features. Some integral components of the informants’ social networks were analysed, namely time of residence in Sweden, school year, gender and residential area, but there are assumedly a great number of other components which, solely or in combination, affect proficiency in Swedish.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University , 2002. , 176 p.
Series
Dissertations in Bilingualism, ISSN 1400-5921
Keyword [sv]
Tvåspråkighet, Sverige, Elever, sociala nätverk, Invandrarungdomar
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142872ISBN: 91-7265-506-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-142872DiVA: diva2:1094540
Public defence
2002-09-28, 10:00
Opponent
Available from: 2017-05-10 Created: 2017-05-10 Last updated: 2017-09-27Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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