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Studying bilingual students’ literacy: a social semiotic perspective

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In the official educational discourse in the Nordic countries literacy teaching has become a central and
contested issue. In both public and political debate literacy seems to be constructed as a unified
concept streamlined for administration and measurement (Prinsloo & Baynham, 2008), and linguistic
diversity seems to be associated with societal problems and educational failure. ”The bilingual
student” is placed in the core of this debate, as he or she is portrayed as a main cause of the low
national placement in the international rankings (Holm & Laursen, 2011) and thus increasingly
conceived of as a threat to a school’s profile (Rampton, Harris & Leung, 2001).
In this paper, I focus on different conceptualizations of literacy and discuss the implications for
research on bilingual children's literacy acquisition and the need to expand the understanding of
literacy in ways, which might contribute to lift the basic understanding of bilinguals’ literacy out of a
disqualifying political discourse. Drawing on the ongoing study Sign of Language (Laursen, 2011), I
reflect on how a social semiotic framework might help open new research perspectives on bilingual
children’s literacy acquisition by recognizing as well the child's agency and the micro-stories
embedded in the creation of signs as the discursive macro-stories surrounding the meaning making
processes. The longitudinal study Signs of Language (2008-2014) involves five multilingual
classrooms and aims at getting insight into the children’s complex uses of the linguistic and semiotic
resources available to them by paying close attention to the perspective of the children - as users and
interpreters of literacy. Methodologically we adopt an ethnographic approach which also leads us to
focus attention to the local use of sociolinguistic and semiotic resources as it unfolds in five different
settings (Blommaert, 2003).
Udgivelsesår10 mar. 2012
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 10 mar. 2012


  • literacy, socialsemiotik, tosprogethed

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