Language negotiation in bilingual mother-child interactions: The case of a Vietnamese immigrant family in Singapore

  • Nguyen Thi Thuy Minh
    Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Nguyen Thi Hanh
    Hawaii Pacific University, USA

This study examines language choice negotiation in mother-child interaction in a bilingual immigrant Vietnamese family in Singapore. Immigrant parents have employed various practices to maintain the heritage language, such as repair, naming, and instructional practices (e.g. Gafaranga, 2010; Guadado, 2009; Fernades, 2019; Kheirkha & Cekaite, 2005). However, children may cooperate with or resist these  language maintenance efforts (Fernandez, 2019; Guadado, 2009). Our study examines how a parent and child resolved tension in their language choices by analyzing the sequential environments and action performance in which the pair  engaged in language alternation.

The data comprised 104 episodes of language alternation drawn from 24 hours of audio-recorded family conversations. Conversation analysis of the data suggests that the child switched to Vietnamese mostly in the second pair-part in question-answer adjacency pairs, in which he incorporated the linguistic materials and turn trajectory provided by the mother in the first pair-part. Second, the child switched to Vietnamese when he aligned with the mother's action and affiliated with her stance. Third, the mother often switched to English to affiliate with the child or to avoid misaligning with the child's ongoing course of actions. The findings contribute to understanding tension surrounding minority language maintenance and bilingual socialization.