An analysis of oral and written narrative discourse production of Swazi bilinguals

Nhleko, Cynthia Nomagugu
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The aim of this research was to compare oral and written narratives produced by 9-year old and 13-year old bilingual children, and adults who spoke both English and siSwati. The research project investigated whether there was an effect of age when children and young adults produced narratives. Further, whether there was an effect of language on the narrative production of English-siSwati bilinguals. The sample consisted of 45 individuals:15 9-year-old children, 15 13-year-old children, and 15 university adults, living in Manzini, Eswatini, who spoke English and siSwati. The participants used mainly siSwati in the home. The participants created a story in the oral and written modes, in both English and siSwati, using a muted film/cartoon entitled “The Boy who Learned to Fly, Usain Bolt”; the language order was counterbalanced. Data were transcribed and coded for three indices of narrative production: narrative length (number of clauses, number of words), pragmatics (types of pragmatic acts), and macro-structural episodes. Results of t-tests for dependent samples revealed differences in the production of narratives of English-siSwati bilingual speakers across the different modalities. Most importantly, the results show that there were differences in the production of narratives by language, regardless of the modality being studied. An analysis of the variance (ANOVA) revealed that age plays a role in the production of narratives but its effect differed by language, as seen by the significant interactions of age and language in all but two of the constructs we considered in this analysis (excluding the number of words and number of non-narratives).The results have implications for clinical therapeutic settings, in that they allow for the variation revealed by the narratives in relation to children and adults’ competencies in the different languages (English and siSwati). These findings can also help policymakers and educators in dealing with children’s development in English and siSwati (spoken and written language skills) and their literacy from primary school to university level
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics at the University of the Witwatersrand, in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics, 2020