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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 26, 2017

Language policies in play: Learning ecologies in multilingual preschool interactions among peers and teachers

Asta Cekaite and Ann-Carita Evaldsson
From the journal Multilingua


In this study we argue that a focus on language learning ecologies, that is, situations for participation in various communicative practices, can shed light on the intricate processes through which minority children develop or are constrained from acquiring cultural and linguistic competencies (here, of a majority language). The analysis draws on a language socialization approach to examine the micro-level contexts of an immigrant child’s preschool interactions with peers and teachers, and the interplay between these and macro-level language and educational policies. It was found that, in contrast to institutional and curricular policy aspirations concerning the positive potentials of children’s play as a site associated with core learning affordances, the language learning ecology created in the multilingual peer group interactions was limited. Social relations in the peer group, the novice’s marginal social position, and the child’s rudimentary knowledge of the lingua franca, Swedish, precluded her from gaining access to shared peer play activities. The current study thus corroborates prior research showing that peer interactions in second language settings may pose a challenge to children who have not already achieved some competence in the majority language and that more support and interactions with the teachers can be useful.


Financial support from Swedish Research Council, grant no. 721-2011-5842, project ‘Language policies in multilingual preschools and families’, is gratefully acknowledged.

Transcription Key


prolonged syllable

[ ]

demarcates overlapping utterances


micropause, i.e. shorter than (0.5)


numbers in single parentheses represent pauses in seconds


relatively high amplitude


inaudible word


unsure transcription:

° °

denotes speech in low volume

(( ))

further comments of the transcriber


denotes rising terminal intonation


indicates falling terminal intonation


denotes latching between utterances


sounds marked by emphatic stress are underlined


indicates laughter


indicates talk in Swedish


children’s linguistic innovations


translation to English


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Published Online: 2017-4-26
Published in Print: 2017-7-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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