The aquisition of colloquial terms by Western Australian Primary School Children from non-English-Speaking backgrounds
Multilingual Matters Ltd
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Education
This paper reports on language variation research carried out in Western Australian primary schools. It addresses differences in the acquisition of vocabulary, in particular the acquisition of colloquial Australian English vocabulary by students from English-speaking backgrounds (ESB) and from a range of non-English-speaking backgrounds (NESB). The data show differences which are attributable to a lack of familiarity with terms and the objects that they represent, which promoted strategies such as generic terms of circumlocution and which may have resulted from partial word knowledge. Other differences were attributable to cultural influences and were evident in varied patterns of word usage among the different non-English-speaking background groups. The findings of this paper suggest the importance of knowing a word not only in its semantic sense but also in its pragmatic and sociolinguistic sense.