Early Literacy in Russian and Turkish as Home Languages in the Context of German as L2

Thematic Section: Literacy in heritage languages

heritage languages, literacy, reading, writing, pedagogy

Natalia Gagarina, Leibniz Center for General Linguistics
Nathalie Topaj, Leibniz Center for General Linguistics
Sophia Czapka, Leibniz Center for General Linguistics

The present study addresses emerging literacy in home and environment languages of bilingual Russian-German and Turkish-German children in Berlin. In this study, we search for typologically-robust tendencies in early spelling in both home languages of bilingual children and compare them to L2 German. We investigate different orthographic phenomena and their possible transfer from L1 to L2 or in vice versa. For this analysis we used the data from the longitudinal study in which 63 primary school children (21 Turkish-German and 42 Russian-German speaking children) took part. The children attended 3rd grade and were on average eight years old. We analysed written stories of 26 children who were alphabetized in their L1 (13 in Turkish and 13 in Russian), in addition to German. Written narrative abilities were assessed with MAIN (Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives) in both languages. Additional tests assessed spelling, reading, mental lexicon size and grammar. A possible transfer from L2 German orthographic phenomena to L1 concerns for example final hardening and capitalization of nouns. First analyses indicate that some children produce forms of final hardening in Turkish (like substituting the final <b> in zub 'tooth' into *zup) but not in Russian. In Turkish, orthographic errors are related to visual similarities between graphemes (e.g. ç instead of c or i instead of ı). Vocal harmony and unstressed vowels are also prone to errors. Vowels in Russian, especially unstressed vowels, are also prone to errors. More detailed analyses will follow and relations to spelling abilities in L2 German will also be calculated. The latter will include both the quantitative (number of correctly spelled graphemes in the standardized spelling test) and qualitative (ability to apply e.g. final hardening in German) abilities.