“The Egg and Jerry”: narration and gesture in L1 and L2 by Italian schoolchildren

Giulia Capussotti, Chiara Meluzzi


In this paper we present a sociolinguistic research conducted on Italian schoolchildren learning English as LS. Following on from renowned researchers, we focused on a less studied population, that is school-aged monolingual children.
Our participants consist in 15 students of a 4th grade class at a primary school in Pavia, all aged around 9 y.o, 7 boys and 8 girls. All children do not present any recorded cognitive problems and they are all Italian L1 speakers with little or no use of other languages at home, and English learnt as LS since the beginning of primary school at age 6. We recorded all children performing a task of re-narration of a “Tom & Jerry” cartoon, firstly in Italian and then, after one week, in English. The corpus consist of about 2h 45’ of recordings, transcribed and annotated in ELAN. Lexical knowledge in English was also tested through a questionnaire before the recordings.
The results were analyzed both qualitatively and, partly, quantitatively. During qualitative analysis, two elements were observed: (1) general tendencies in speakers general behavior and (2) differences in the relationship between syntactic-conversational system and gesture system in relation to L1/L2. The quantitative analysis show a difference in the use of beats gestures and iconic ones between L1 and LS, but also between boys and girls.
The main findings of the current research are: (1) frequent use of gesture during L1 recordings, in contrast to a general decrease of gesture during L2 recordings; (2) gesture as linguistic reinforcing or replacement of speech production during L1 recordings, in contrast to gesture as problem solving strategy during L2 recordings; (3) generally, offline knowledge in L2 is not reflected in online knowledge.

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