Update from Mineko Shirakawa, PhD student in Linguistics at UC

Early on in my postgraduate research career, I looked at the acquisition of syntax and morphology in Japanese-English bilingual children in Christchurch. In my PhD study, I have decided to investigate the acquisition of syntax and morphology in Japanese-Brazilian Portuguese bilingual children living in Japan. There are approximately 200,000 Brazilians in Japan. They have the following characteristics: (i) they are the descendants of Japanese migrants to Brazil, which means they are ethnically Japanese, (ii) they immigrated to Japan from Brazil for economic reasons, (iii) most of them are factory workers, and they form a community in Japan where they can live without the Japanese language, (iv) although many plan to return to Brazil once they have saved enough money, they tend to end up staying in Japan, (v) consequently, Brazilian parents would like their children to learn Japanese for their future career, so they send them to Japanese medium local schools, but many Brazilian children seem to struggle to catch up with Japanese monolinguals.

I am investigating the impact of three factors on simultaneous bilingual acquisition in Japanese-Brazilian Portuguese bilingual children: parental attitudes towards bilingualism, quantity and quality of linguistic input, and cross-linguistic influences. I am trying to identify whether there are any differences between monolingual and bilingual children in terms of the acquisition of morphological case marking. My study uses four methods of data collection: a questionnaire, recording spontaneous language samples, structured interviews, and structured data elicitation tasks.

I have been accepted as a visiting researcher at Kwansei Gakuin University, under the supervision of Professor Yamamoto, for one year from April 2015. Kwansei Gakuin University, which was founded in 1889 in Kobe, Japan, is one of the most prestigious private institutes in Japan. Professor Yamamoto is a specialist of bilingualism in the graduate school of language, communication and culture. She has been studying simultaneous bilingual development from sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic perspectives. It is an honour to be given such a rare opportunity. I am going to use my time at Kwansei Gakuin University to collect the data for my PhD research. I hope to report on the progress of my project occasionally.

Mineko Shirakawa,
PhD Candidate
Department of Linguistics, University of Canterbury.

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