14. Transfer and interdependence in bi- and multilingual migrant students: Investigating the factors associated with multilingual writing skills

multiliteracy, heritage languages, transfer, interdependence, multicompetence

Claudia Maria Riehl, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich
Raphael Berthele, Université de Fribourg

The session refers to the conference theme “Bilingualism in Flux” in addressing cross-linguistic influence and maintenance of heritage languages in the domain of writing. Although researchers widely agree that literacy skills in several languages are interdependent (Cummins 2000; 2001, Hulstijn 2015), to date the influencing factors are not sufficiently explained (Berthele 2018). Berthele & Lambert (2018) presume that the interdependence is not defined by thresholds but rather continuous in nature. This is in line with the multicompetence approach which starts from the assumption that bi- and multilinguals make use of a holistic multilingual repertoire in which the influence among the language systems is not only reciprocal between L1 and L2 (and L3 etc.) (Riehl forthc.), but also results in changes in the complete system (see De Angelis & Jessner 2012). Furthermore, it refers to a usage-based theory which includes the dynamics of the linguistic system (Schmid 2020). This approach presumes that speakers can develop literacy skills exclusively in one language (A) and transfer particular usage patterns which are entrenched in this language setting when writing in another language (B). If speakers start to act literally in both languages with more frequency, the system changes insofar as these patterns become part of a shared linguistic repertoire. Similar effects may hold in cases where literary skills are acquired in two or more languages simultaneously (e.g. in bilingual schooling programs).
The purpose of the panel is to investigate what kind of skills and resources shape the development of heritage and national (or school) languages in literacy development of migrant students. Moreover, we seek to assess the level of interdependence of diverse languages in the individual speakers’ repertoires and address the dynamics of the system and potential changes. Finally, we want to discuss the conceptual and methodological problems that arise in the empirical investigation of linguistic interdependence.

The following questions are addressed:
  1. Are the correlational patterns between the heritage and second language based on underlying cognitive skills independent from language or caused by transfer and interdependence effects?
  2. When literacy skills are first developed in the language of instruction (and not in L1) but exploited when writing in L1 ̶ is this a matter of transfer or interdependence?
  3. What research paradigms are most promising to investigate multilingual literacy skills?
The proposed panel brings together scholars from different angles and with focus on different language combinations to include also cultural and typological effects of the languages in contact. All papers in this session draw on linguistic repertoires with German or French as a dominant language (in two different countries, Germany and Switzerland) and a range of different heritage languages (Turkish, Greek, Russian, Italian, Portuguese) and English as an L3. The papers include both within-group and between-group study designs as well as cross-sectional and longitudinal approaches to discuss the impact of the empirical settings. The first two papers focus on both methodological and theoretical challenges, while the last two papers discuss models and theoretical approaches to disentangle the notions of interdependence and transfer.

  1. On causal inferences on effects across heritage and second languages: Theoretical and empirical analyses, Raphael Berthele
  2. Shared or Appropriated? Examining the Evidence for Transversality and Transfer of Multilinguals’ Writing Skills, Nicole Marx
  3. Multilingual Writing: A Synthesized Competence. Empirically substantiated approximations to the construct “Multiliteracies”, Ingrid Gogolin, Klinger, Thorsten, Birger Schnoor, Irina Usanova
  4. Transfer and interdependence in multilingual writing from a usage-based perspective, Nikolas Koch