31 SES 04 B, Language Proficiency in Multilingual Settings
Children are capable of creating social worlds in their writing (Dyson 1989; Kamberelis 1999) This practice – creating content – is a central aspect of literacy and of L1-education (Ivanič 2004). Notwithstanding, research on early writing have often foregrounded formal aspects of language and literacy (Liberg et al 2012). While these aspects have given us valuable insights in how children write, few studies have focused content aspects in young children’s texts, namely what texts are about. The presented study focuses content aspects through a socio semiotic analysis of transitivity as well as a topic analysis of texts written by children of ages 8 to 9. The theoretical framework of the study is in part an analytic frame, consisting of a socio semiotic understanding of language based on systemic functional linguistics (Halliday 2014), and in part an interpretative one consisting of a didactically based receptionist perspective and a discourse critical perspective. Systemic functional linguistics (SFL) has become a well established theory of language in Nordic linguistic research and research on L1-education (Hestbæk Andersen et al 2001; Holmberg & Karlsson 2006; Liberg 2012; Maagerø 2005). SFL views language as potential for meaning, developed by being (socially) functional in relation to different kinds of contexts. (Halliday 1978, Halliday & Hasan 1989; Holmberg & Karlsson 2006). Since language, in this sense, is considered functional by definition, SFL differentiates three metafunctions of language which are constantly at work in language use. These are the interpersonal metafunction (enacting social relationships), the ideational metafunction (construing experience) and the textual metafunction (organising information) which all bare what is called metafunctional meanings (Halliday 2004:33). The present study focuses on the ideational metafunction and meanings, namely ‘the social worlds’ created in texts and by what linguistic resources (Christie 2012) they are construed. The study deploys an analysis of processes (what is happening) in texts and of how different participants (‘what’ or ‘who’) are involved in them (‘the system of transitivity’, Halliday 2004; Holmberg & Karlsson 2006; Kamler 1993; af Geijerstam 2014).
The didactically based receptionist perspective on writing is inspired by receptionist theory deriving from literary science (McCormick 1994, Rosenblatt 1995 and Langer 2005), and focuses on the relation between a (writing) task and the written text (Liberg 2012). This perspective on the data draws attention to how the formulation of writing tasks invites different kinds of writing vis-a-vis what worlds are constructed by the texts in attempts to solve these tasks. The results of the study are also discussed in terms of discourse and of the presence and function of discourses in early writing. Discourse is defined as perspectives on the world, expressed through language, associated to our relations to the world which is dependent on our social status, our social relations, gender and identity, etcetera (Fairclough 1995). A further aim is to contribute to a metalanguage to talk about what the disciplinary literacy of L1-education is in Sweden (Shanahan & Shanahan 2012).
Following research questions has been formulated:
RQ1: What linguistic resources regarding the system of transitivity are used by the students in their writing of narrative and informational texts?
RQ2: What content-themes are constructed in the analyzed texts?
By answering these questions, the study gives us tools to further explore what content in early writing is and how it is construed and by extension enables a critical discussion of what kind of writing is encouraged in school.
 The study uses data from the larger research project Function, content and form in interaction. Students’ text-making in early school years (led by professor Caroline Liberg of Uppsala University and funded by the Swedish Research Council 2013-2016).
The analyzed data consists of 38 narrative texts written in relation to two comparable writing tasks, asking the students a class in school year 2 and 3 to write about "The future" and "Another world", respectively. In addition to these texts, an equivalent selection of informational texts will be analyzed, enabling a comparison of 'what' and 'how' content is construed in narrative and informational texts. The study aims to answer how texts are construed as processes - as happenings of different kinds - and which involves different kinds of participants defined in relation to specific happenings (Halliday 2004; Holmberg & Karlsson 2006). The processes and participants are thus viewed as linguistic resources for construing experiences, capable of highlighting the roles of different participants in these construals; are they doing, defining, being defined, talked about or other. The analysis of transitivity shows how the worlds of the writers are construed in text, but to answer the question of what these worlds look like, the study deploys an analysis of topics. Are the texts about trolls and princesses, or about adventure and toys? Topics refers to words which share a semantic kinship, as, for example, the flowers 'lilies' and 'daisies' does (Halliday & Hasan 1989). By analyzing transitivity and topics in the texts, it is possible to see what topics are active in the processes and thus in the construal of the worlds in the texts. The analyses combine 'what' is being written with 'how' it is being written by talking of Content-themes. These Content-Themes are defined as specific topics construed as participants in a specific process type, for example Nature through attribute, Animal as sayer or Toys as value. One writer might make use of few types of processes to write about many topics, and others might use all process types to write about just a few topics. To talk about texts on the text-level the study has developed a field based on the use of Content-Themes in texts in relation to one specific writing task. This field is called the Content-Thematic Space in which there are four general text types in the analyzed data: (1) Texts that use 1-2 process construing few topics, (2) texts that use 3-4 process types construing few topics, (3) texts that use 1-2 process types construing many topics and (4), texts that use 3-4 process types construing many topics.
The results of the study of narratives show that the two tasks generated about twenty topics per task, with a few of them overlapping (like Money, Luxury, Animals and Nature). This gave rise to two very dissimilar Content-Thematic Spaces. The first task, on writing about "The future", resulted in texts in which the children wrote about their own materialistic success through mainly relational but also material processes (1 above). In contrast, the other task, on writing on "Another world", resulted in texts about a number of themes with a bigger variation of process types (4 above). In the writing of an absolute majority of the children, we see a so called broadened repertoire, meaning they have written texts with different kinds of Content-Thematic profiles. The Content-Thematic Space also show that one child has met the writing tasks with writing two identical Content-Thematic profiles. The results of the analysis of the narrative texts will be compared to that of the analysis of the informational texts, from which the results are expected to show a more salient homogeneity among the texts Content-Thematic profiles. The main contribution of the study is that by using this method I show, on the one hand, the variation of worlds created by the students in relation to specific task formulations. On the other hand, I suggest how we can talk about content in early school writing - of both narrative and informational texts - something that can serve as prerequisites for a critical discussion of what writing entail. The results also contribute to our understanding of what disciplinary literacy of L1-education in Sweden is.
Christie, Frances 2012. A language theory for educational practice. Language learning. A journal of research in language studies 62, s. 1-31 Dyson, Anne H. 1989. "Once upon a time" reconsidered: The developmental dialectic between function and form. Written Communication 6, s. 436-462 Fairclough, Norman 1995. Critical discourse analysis: the critical study of language. London: Longman af Geijerstam, Åsa 2014. Vem gör, vem är och vem upplever? En analys av processer och deltagare i tidigt narrativt skolskrivande. I: Andersson, Peter, Per Holmberg, Anna Lyngfelt, Anna Nordenstam och Olle Widhe (red.) Mångfaldens möjligheter: Litteratur- och språkdidaktik i Norden. (s. 99-114). Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet Halliday, Michael A. K. & Ruqaiya Hasan 1989. Language, context, and text: aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. 2. ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Halliday, Michael A. K. & Christian M. I. M Matthiessen 2004. An introduction to functional grammar. 4. ed. London: Arnold. Holmberg, Per & Anna-Malin Karlsson 2006. Grammatik med betydelse: en introduktion till funktionell grammatik. Uppsala: Hallgren & Fallgren Ivanič, Rosalind. 2004. Discourses of Writing and Learning to Write. Language and Education 18(3), s. 220-245. Kamberelis, George. 1999. Genre development and learning: Children writing stories, science reports, and poems. Research in the Teaching of English 33(4), s. 403-460. Kamler, Barbara. 1993. The Construction of Gender in Early Writing. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics. Supplement Series 10(1), s. 129-146 Langer, Judith A. 2005. Litterära föreställningsvärldar: litteraturundervisning och litterär förståelse. Göteborg: Daidalos Liberg, Caroline 2012. Didaktiskt perspektiv på tidig läs- och skrivinlärning. I: Ongstad, Sigmund (red.) Nordisk morsmålsdidaktikk: Forskning, felt og fag. Oslo: Novus forlag Liberg, Caroline, Jenny Wiksten Folkeryd, Åsa af Geijerstam 2012. Swedish - An updated school subject? Education Inquiry 3(4), s. 477-493. McCormick, Kathleen 1994. The culture of reading and the teaching of English. Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press Martin, James R. & David Rose 2008. Genre relations: mapping culture. London: Equinox Rosenblatt, Louise M. 1995. Literature as exploration. 5. ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America Shanahan, Timothy. & Cynthia Shanahan 2012. What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders 32(1), s. 7-18.
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