|dc.description.abstract||This thesis is a study of students’ experiences as learners of Standard Australian English (SAE) as an additional language or dialect in early years classrooms in an Australian Aboriginal community. It takes as its starting point reports that English‐lexified varieties spoken in many Aboriginal communities are not explicitly recognised as systematically different from SAE within the formal education system. That is, that the status and needs of Aboriginal students as learners of SAE may be ‘invisible’ in classroom interactions which make up a large part of these children’s educational experiences (Angelo & Hudson 2018; Dixon & Angelo 2014; McIntosh, O’Hanlon & Angelo 2012; Sellwood & Angelo 2013).
These issues were explored through two research questions and five sub‐questions:
1) How are students choosing between variants in their linguistic repertoires as they talk during class time at school, a. Do students choose variants associated with SAE or the community variety according to interlocutor, topic of talk or the type of activity they are engaged in?; b. Are there changes in students’ rate of use of SAE and non‐SAE variants in their speech in the classroom over three years?
2) To what extent, and how, do teachers present SAE (as an additional language/dialect) as a learning focus for students in lessons, a. What are the norms and expectations for students’ ways of speaking in the classroom, as revealed through teachers, teacher aides and students’ practices?; b. Is SAE (AL/D) presented as a learning focus in literacy lessons, and how?; c. Is SAE (AL/D) presented as the main content to be learned in any lessons, and how?
Data for the study was collected over three years, following two cohorts of students in the first four years of school, in an Aboriginal community in Queensland. Usual classroom lessons were audio and video recorded with the aim of capturing as closely as possible what would have been happening if researchers had not been present.
Research Question 1 was investigated through two complementary approaches, providing qualitative and quantitative analysis. Variationist sociolinguistic methods were used to consider how linguistic and social factors influenced students’ choices between linguistic variants associated with the community variety and SAE, and the effect of change over time. Variation in absence and presence of the verb ‘be’ in the children’s classroom talk was taken as a case study for the focus of this analysis. Results showed that literacy task related topics of talk strongly favoured presence of the verb ‘be’. However, contrary to expectation, ‘be’ presence in the children’s classroom talk was not favoured with SAE‐speaking teacher addressees. The analysis did not show the expected increase in rate of ‘be’ presence with an increased length of time at school.
Research Question 1 was additionally explored using a Conversation Analysis (CA) approach. CA analysis of classroom interactions showed ways in which students oriented to the social meanings of different ways of talking. In literacy tasks, children’s self‐talk showed how they navigated between variants in their linguistic repertoires, and children demonstrated in their interactions with peers and teachers that they associated certain words with particular ways of talking in the community.
Research Question 2 was explored through analysis of classroom interactions from a CA perspective. Analysis revealed little explicit orientation from teachers to students being speakers of the community variety, or learners of SAE, with students being instead treated to a considerable extent as already speakers of SAE. Lessons ostensibly targeted at explicitly teaching linguistic forms were found to focus on topic‐specific applications of SAE words to academic tasks. The context where teachers attended most to non‐SAE aspects of students’ speech was in interactions centred on reading and writing tasks. However, in these interactions, there was evidence that students were treated primarily as learners of literacy, rather than learners of SAE.
Both of the methodological approaches, CA and variationist sociolinguistics, drew on naturally occurring classroom data to provide insight into young Aboriginal students’ linguistic experiences encountering SAE as the medium of instruction at school. These analyses contribute new material to previous observations regarding the level of acknowledgement of Aboriginal SAE as an additional language or dialect learners at school (Dixon & Angelo 2014; McIntosh, O’Hanlon & Angelo 2012; Sellwood & Angelo 2013), providing insight into the visibility of these students’ existing linguistic knowledge and SAE learning needs in everyday classroom interactions central to their education.||