Textual Features of the Academic Language of Moroccan Monolingual Children’s Register at Home and at School

Submitted by: Bouchra BOUKLATA
Abstract: Yamina El Kirat El Allame, Mohammed V University in Rabat
& Bouchra Bouklata, Ibn Tofail University. Kenitra

Early exposure to the language of schooling at home has proved to be a prerequisite for the child’s smooth transition to school not only through his/her coping with the complex cognitive academic demands but through the ability to use language in decontextualized interactions, i.e, beyond the perceivable, as well (Cunningham & Stanovish, 1997).

The Moroccan monolingual child seems to face a double challenge as (s)he is expected from his/her first day at school to be well prepared to face the demands set by the educational setting not only in a language that is not his/her mother tongue, Modern Standard Arabic, but in a sophisticated register supposed to occur earlier in Darija, the home language of the participants in the study

The article aims at exploring the use of decontextualized language, as one of the communicative features of the academic language register at the textual level, in the inputs of mothers and teachers of 18 monolingual Moroccan 3- to 6-year-old children and the effect of these inputs on the children’s language development. Data collection involved a book-picture telling task and a free conversations task at home and at school at two measurement times. All mother-child interactions and teacher-child interactions were videotaped. The data was transcribed, coded according to the DASH coding scheme and analysed using two software programmes: the CLAN (Computerised Language Analysis) and the SPSS (Statistical Package fo for the Social Sciences).The proposed theoretical framework, based on systemic functional linguistics and usage-based theories and informed by research on the language of school, was adopted for assessing caretaker-child interactions.

The data analysis revealed that the decontextualized language highly occurred in all mothers’ input, teachers’ input, and children’s output both at home and at school, but to varying degrees. Mothers were found to produce much more decontextualized language than teachers, except for the book-picture telling task in T2. At school, children, on the other hand, produced significantly higher proportions of non-present talk during the book-picture telling activity in both measurement times than at home. However,, they exhibited a reversed pattern at home as they used higher proportions of non-present talk in the free conversation task in both measurement times than at school.

Key Words: Mother tongue (Darija); Decontextualized language; Academic language; Early exposure; Modern Standard Arabic; Variance.
1. Bouklata, Bouchra. 2017. Communicative Features of Academic Language in the Register of Moroccan Monolingual children at home and at school.
2. Cunningham & Stanovish. 1997. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Faculty of Letters & Human Sciences. Mohammed V University in Rabat. Morocco.