language minority children's linguistic and cognitive creativity

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Sydney]On: 05 May 2013, At: 09:37Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural DevelopmentPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rmmm20

    Language minority children's linguistic and cognitivecreativityCarolyn Kessler a & Mary Ellen Quinn ba University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, 78285, U.S.A.b Alamo Heights School District, San Antonio, TX, 78209, U.S.A.Published online: 14 Sep 2010.

    To cite this article: Carolyn Kessler & Mary Ellen Quinn (1987): Language minority children's linguistic and cognitive creativity,Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 8:1-2, 173-186

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01434632.1987.9994284

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  • LANGUAGE MINORITY CHILDREN'SLINGUISTIC AND COGNITIVE

    CREATIVITYCarolyn Kessler

    University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78285,U.S.A.

    Mary Ellen QuinnAlamo Heights School District, San Antonio, TX 78209,

    U.S.A.

    Abstract. In the southwestern United States thousands of childrenenter the schooling process as language minority speakers of Spanish.This paper discusses findings from an empirical investigation of theeffects of bilingualism on the linguistic and cognitive creativity of lan-guage minority children proficiently bilingual in Spanish and English.Specifically, it addresses the cognitive processes of divergent and con-vergent thinking and the linguistic process of metaphorising in the 'context of formulating scientific hypotheses. Together the linguistic andcognitive processes are viewed as manifesting aspects of a commonunderlying creativity. Subjects were sixth-grade students, age 11, intwo intact classrooms, one with monolingual English-speaking majoritychildren and the other with Spanish-English bilingual minority children.Both groups participated in an inquiry-based science programme duringwhich they learned to formulate scientific hypotheses in a problem-solving setting. Written hypotheses generated by the children providedthe data-base. On measures of hypothesis quality, syntactic and semanticlinguistic variables, bilinguals outperformed monolinguals. The quali-tatively high scientific hypotheses expressed by the language minoritychildren using complex metaphoric language in their second language,English, indicate that linguistic and cognitive creativity is enhanced bybilingual language proficiency.

    In the southwestern United States thousands of children enter school aslanguage minority speakers of Spanish. In Texas alone, more than 260,000children are classified as limited English proficient or LEP (Texas EducationAgency, 1986). These language minority children are, consequently, in needof special educational services to develop the majority language, English,0143-4632/87/01/0173-14$02.50/0 1987 C. KESSLER & M.E. QUINNJOURNAL OF MULTILINGUAL AND MULTICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT Vol. 8, Nos. 1 & 2, 1987

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  • 174 MULTILINGUAL AND MULTICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

    necessary for school success. Although it is not feasible to provide a bilingualprogramme for all LEP children (Perez, 1980), state-mandated bilingualeducation programmes serve large numbers of Spanish-dominant LEP chil-dren. Those who enter bilingual programmes in the early school years havethe opportunity to gradually become bilingual in Spanish and English duringthe five or six years of the elementary school.

    This paper discusses findings from an empirical investigation of the effectsof bilingualism on the linguistic and cognitive creativity of language minoritychildren after six years of schooling. Specifically, it addresses the cognitiveprocesses of divergent and convergent thinking and the linguistic process ofmetaphorising in the context of formulating scientific hypotheses. Takentogether, these linguistic and cognitive processes are viewed as manifestingaspects of a common underlying creativity.

    The study discussed examines findings in measuring the ability of languageminority bilingual children to formulate scientific hypotheses and to expressthem in written discourse. This ability is then contrasted with that oflanguage majority monolingual children matched for age and grade levels.Specifically, contrasts between language minority children using English,their second language, and language majority English-speaking children areexamined for quality of hypotheses generated, syntactic complexity of thewritten hypotheses, and utilisation of metaphoric language in expressingscientific hypotheses.

    Background of Language Minority Population StudiedBecause portions of the American southwest from California to Texas

    were settled at different periods, attracting different Hispanic groups, eachhas its own dialect of Spanish and distinctive subculture. Focus here is onthe Mexican-American population of San Antonio, the major urban area ofSouth Texas. The language minority children in this study are from one ofthe barrio areas of San Antonio where Spanish functions as the language ofthe home and community.

    Allardt (1984: 199) defines a language minority as 'any group in whichthe members emphasise language as a crucial group characteristic and expressa certain degree of solidarity for the group so delineated'. Based on the fourbasic criteria Allardt gives for the identification of a language minority,Mexican-Americans of San Antonio and South Texas meet requirements for(1) self-categorisation, (2) common descent, (3) distinctive linguistic, culturaland historical features related to their Spanish language, (4) social organ-isation that places Mexican-Americans in a minority position in relationshipto the dominant culture and English language. Mexican Americans in SouthTexas and San Antonio have a highly developed sense of awareness ofthemselves as an ethnic group sharing a long history that spans severalcenturies. They are extremely attached to their language and culture and

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  • MINORITY CHILDREN'S CREATIVITY 175

    have no problems in retaining them (Grosjean, 1982). The region they livein once belonged to them, as the numerous Spanish place names in thearea indicate. Founded in 1722 by Spanish-speaking Canary Islanders, SanAntonio holds in its history rule by Spain and Mexico. Although Texasgained independence from Mexico in 1836 and later was annexed to theUnited States in 1845, it was through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in1848, ending the Mexican-American War, that 75,000 Mexicans came underAmerican rule. Although guaranteed civil and religious rights, these Mex-ican-Americans were treated as a conquered people. Not only did they losetheir land, but they experienced strong prejudice and discrimination thatcontinues today. Later, as a result of the Mexican Revolution, approximatelyone million Mexican immigrants came to the United States between 1910and 1920. By 1930, when the Depression cut off employment possibilities,nearly 15% of the population of Mexico had immigrated to the U . S .(Grosjean, 1982). Thousands of others continue to come today. In oppositionto the stereotype of Mexican-Americans, or Chcanos, as farm labourers ormigrant workers, the majority live in urban areas throughout the southwest.San Antonio, an urban area with a population of nearly one million, is 53%Mexican-American. In tracing a common descent for today's Mexican-Americans, most are 'mestizo', Hispanics of mixed Spanish and nativeAmerican heritage (Conklin & Lourie, 1983).

    Mexican Americans in South Texas share a non-standard variety of Span-ish reflecting the impact of extensive contact with English. T h e communityfrom which the bilingual children for this study come is regularly receivingnew immigrants from Mexico. This significantly contributes to maintenanceof the Spanish language. Most of the other members of the community arefirst or second generation who continue to make regular trips to Mexico tovisit relatives. As the major urban area of South Texas, which shares hun-dreds of miles of border with Mexico, San Antonino reflects extensiveinteraction with its neighbour to the south. San Antonio is a major des-tination region, receiving documented and undocumented migrants fromspecific regions in Mexico. A common destination for migrants from Mexicois the barrio area of San Antonio. Migrants choose Texas because it isgeographically close, transport costs are low and jobs are available. SanAntonio receives a stongly channelised migration stream from the north-western part of Mexico, particularly from

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