Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Patricia J. Brooks

Subject Categories

Communication | Developmental Psychology


language enclave; language loss; language maintenance; Lazuri-Turkish; parent-child interaction; Turkish-German


In language contact situations parents who grew up acquiring their ancestral language (AL) often have to make choices about the fate of AL transmission by negotiating resources and beliefs about what is best for their children's future. Their language practices contribute to AL loss or maintenance, affecting developmental pathways for bilingualism. The situation faced by speakers of Lazuri -- a Grade 2, severely endangered South Caucasian language that is no longer used in child-directed speech illustrates a global phenomenon of rapid language loss within indigenous communities due to linguistic assimilation to a dominant language (DL). AL loss is associated with parental language socialization goals (e.g., to prepare children for formal education in the DL), as well as socio-economic and historical factors. Study 1 examined AL production in Lazuri-Turkish caregiver-child dyads (N=62, M child age=30.0 months, SD= 9.4, range 12-48 months) as a function of caregiver generation (i.e., comparing 30 grandparent-child vs. 32 parent-child dyads). Dyads were recruited from Lazona communities in Findikli and Ardaşen, Turkey. Study 2 compared a subset of the parent-child dyads from Study 1 with age-matched Turkish-German parent-child dyads (N=12, M child age=29 mo, range 16-46) recruited from the Kreuzberg community of Berlin. The Berlin families tend to maintain usage of AL (i.e., Turkish) in child-directed speech, and served as a base of comparison with the Lazuri communities where the DL has replaced the AL in communication with children. All parents completed a short demographic and language use questionnaire. Across studies, dyads were instructed to converse in their AL (i.e., Lazuri in Lazona, Turkish in Berlin) while engaging with animal farm and tea-party toy sets (10 min each). The elicitation task thus provided an assessment of caregiver language fluency in the AL as well as a semi-structured context for examining cultural variation in caregiver-child communication.

Utterances were transcribed and coded for language use (i.e., AL, DL, Mixed) and type (i.e., labeling, questioning, commanding, deictic expression, comment, invitation). Deictic gestures (i.e., pointing, showing, offering, requesting) were also coded. In Study 1, the elicitation task indicated AL loss with grandparents and parents interacting similarly with children: Caregivers spoke Lazuri in only 58.5%, while the remainder of the child-directed speech was in Turkish (26.0%) or mixed languages (15.4%). In contrast, children lacked Lazuri fluency and predominantly spoke Turkish (82.8%) with fewer Lazuri (14.8%) or mixed utterances (2.4%): 79.8% of children's Lazuri utterances were imitative, as opposed to spontaneous speech (21.2%). Caregivers combined Lazuri utterances with deictic gestures more often than Turkish utterances to establish a common ground for effective communication. Reflecting parental language practices in AL usage in Study 2, Berlin dyads conversed fluently in AL. Functional coding of utterances showed cultural variation in child-directed speech: Lazuri parents produced more commands whereas Berlin parents used more questions to engage their children. Despite variation in parental speech, children's communication was remarkably alike, yet mediated by the activity context. The findings extend the bilingual literature by including understudied language enclaves and corroborate how practices and beliefs about what to teach and how to talk to children contribute to AL loss or maintenance. Benefits and ways of maintaining AL in socioeconomically disadvantaged contexts are discussed. Lazuri child stories are included as supplemental materials.

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