Play in two languages.
How bilingual children use Norwegian and North-Sámi in role-play.


Thursday 7 November, 10.30-11.00, B1005

The theme for my thesis and this paper is language choices in bilingual role-play with children using Norwegian and North-Sámi. I did my fieldwork in a Sámi kindergarten[1] in a predominantly Norwegian-speaking area. The children in the kindergarten use both Norwegian and North-Sámi daily, their family praxis is often bilingual. I found that the children use both their languages in role-play, and their language praxis is governed by the rules of role-play.

Role-play as situation is fundamental in the analysis of bilingual role-play. Without an understanding of role-play, it is difficult to understand the codes of play.  Play has its own codes for different levels of reality (Bateson, 1976 [1955], 1982 [1956]). These codes are expressed with certain linguistic and non-linguistic cues, like tone of voice, dialect- or languagealternation (Bateson, 1982 [1956]; Jakobson, 1979; Sawyer, 2003). Some of these cues are obligatory, others are more optional. Bilingual play, the use of two languages in role-play, has certain obligatory cues, structural cues like the use of one language for directing, another for expressing lines (Cromdal, 2000; Green-Vänttinen, 1996; Guldal, 1997; Halmari & Smith, 1994), and this being a child-child transmitted mode (Guldal, 1997; Kyratzis, 2010; Paugh, 2005). We understand that bilingual role-play in any form demands certain external conditions, like a bilingul group of children in a stable and nuorishing language environment.

Research on codeswitching has treated language alternation as a switching of codes (Alvarez-Cáccamo, 1998b; Auer, 1984, 1998, 2011; Gafaranga & Torras, 2002; Myers-Scotton, 1993). I view this as a monolingual perspective on language alternation, in a bilingual perspective codes may change when language alternation occurs, but in a bilingual setting there are other alternatives, like bilingualism (Alvarez-Cáccamo, 1998a, 1998b; Gafaranga, 2007; Gafaranga & Torras, 2002). From my study of bilingual play, I see the children not necessarily treating the languages as codes, there are other cues, or clusters of cues, that convey the codes of role-play (Halmari & Smith, 1994).

[1] I use the term «kindergarten» in the tradition of Fröbel and as a direct translation of the Norwegian “barnehage”, I understand that internationally this term covers terms like “creche” for children about 0-4 and “pre-school” for the children 4-6.