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The anatomy of bilingualism in Gibraltar (II)

Charles Durante

In our most recent edition the Gibraltarian educationalist Charles Durante wrote “Bilingualism and the Decline of Spanish in Gibraltar”. His second edition ventures even further into the fascinating subject of bilingualism in Gibraltar.

An important distinction is made between additive and subtractive bilingualism. Canadian studies have been conducted in circumstances where the second language has been acquired without posing a threat to the development and maintenance of the first: it is additive and not subtractive. Additive bilingualism refers to cases in which bilinguals learn a second language without adverse effect on any language already acquired. Under these circumstances, it is supposed to have a positive effect on mental development.

The Rock of Gibraltar and the Campo Hinterland
@Christian Ferrary

Substractive bilingualism refers to cases in which the acquisition of a second language interferes with the development of a first language. This kind of bilingualism often obtains when a child from a minority group attends school in the second language, and is not given the opportunity to develop her native language skills. This phenomenon is supposed to have a negative effect on mental development. This is common among the Maoris in New Zealand and Hispanics in the United States.

In so far as we allow English to interfere or impoverish our Spanish, we are substractive bilinguals. In so far as nursery classes are conducted solely in English, we are hampering the bilingual development of our children. Similarly, the ‘immersion’ technique which required the child to be exposed exclusively to English was misconceived and has been sensibly dropped.

Chomsky, the doyen of linguistic studies, has made it abundantly clear we have an innate propensity for language; we are hard-wired to acquire and use language. The sooner we are exposed to both English and Spanish (and Chomsky maintained we have acquired the basic linguistic tools by the age of three!), the more likely we are to obtain a native speaker’s fluency in both.

Chomsky, Charles Durante Bilingualism Gibraltar Part 2
Chomsky

In any examination of bilingualism we come across the phenomena of code-mixing and code-switching. These are terms in sociolinguistics for language and especially speech that draws to a different extent on at least two languages combined in different ways; for example, ‘El gobierno va a hacer banning lo (sic) scooters’. Code- mixing in a language emphasises hybridization and code-switching emphasises movement from one language to another.

Mixing and switching probably occur to some extent in the speech of all bilinguals, so that there is a sense in which a person capable of using two languages, A and B, has three systems for use, A, B and C (in our case, Yanito), a range of hybrid forms that can be used with comparable bilinguals but not with the monolingual speakers of A or B.

There are four main forms of switching: tag-switching, in which tags and certain set phrases in one language are inserted into an utterance otherwise in another, for example, ‘It’s lovely here, verdad?’ Intra-sentence switching, in which the switch occurs within a clause or sentence: ‘Estaba preparando la comida when, all of a sudden, the phone rang, y tuve que deja la cocina.’

Charles Durante Bilingualism Gibraltar Part 2

Inter-sentence switching in which a change of language occurs at a sentence or clause boundary, for example, ‘Sometimes I start a sentence in English, y termino en espanol’. Finally we have Intra-word switching, in which a change occurs within a word boundary, such as in ‘shoppa’ (English shop with Panjabi plural ending)…

In the next edition of REACH-Alcance Charles Durante looks into the challenges and opportunities of the language of Cervantes in Gibraltar and the future of Yanito in the face of anglo-centrism.

In our most recent edition the Gibraltarian educationalist Charles Durante wrote “Bilingualism and the Decline of Spanish in Gibraltar”. His second edition ventures even further into the fascinating subject of bilingualism in Gibraltar.

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