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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Understanding and Supporting Emergent Writing in L2 Adults Developing First-Time Print Literacy
by Gonzalves, Lisa, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2020, 200; 27665867
Abstract (Summary)

Around the world, a great number of people lack access to education due to issues of gender, poverty, ethnic discrimination, and geographic proximity. Consequently, today over 750,000,000 adults worldwide are unable to read and write – nearly 10% of the world population (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2017). Moreover, many of these same adults may need to migrate at some point in their lives due to political or financial circumstances, thus needing to acquire additional languages to function in their new settings. For these migrants new to reading and writing understanding the world of print, albeit in a new language, can be an arduous undertaking.

While there is a very established research domain on children and their acquisition of L1 language and print literacy, there is very little research on emergent print literacy in an adult L2 context (Bigelow & Tarone, 2004; Strube, 2009; van de Craats, Kurvers, & Young-Scholten, 2008). One may assume that the development of print literacy is similar for adults as it is for children. However, these adults, as second language learners, are acquiring an entirely new lexical bank in tandem with learning first-time print literacy, which includes gaining a systematic understanding of the basic parts of a word (syllables, consonant clusters, morphemes), as well as grasping an entirely new phonetic and syntactic system. Moreover, many of these same students must be socialized as to how to participate in a western classroom environment – how to ‘be’ a student, and all the culturally-based expectations that come along with this role (DeCapua, 2016). While research estimates that somewhere between 3-15% percent of incoming immigrants to the U.S. have yet to develop print literacy in any language (Tarone, Bigelow, & Hansen, 2009), research on emergent print literacy in the adult L2 context is relatively unexplored.

Situated in a Northern California adult school, the goal of this dissertation is to offer a contextualized account of the development of first-time print literacy practices in adult L2 learners, with specific attention to emergent writing. Leveraging ethnographic methods, the study begins by exploring state and federal language education policies which govern adult education programs, underscoring the glaring absence of these learners (and their pedagogical needs) in mandated standards, assessments, and curricula. Following, data gathered during classroom observations of L2 adults gaining first-time print literacy is presented, alongside data from individual interviews with such students. The findings showcase the varying stages of writing development, which starkly contrast with the sequential writing stages highlighted in the scholarship on L1 children. Accordingly, a new working model of orthographic development is presented, outlining the multiple, parallel trajectories critical for L2 adults acquiring first-time print literacy. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for more inclusivity of these learners in the policy landscape based on ongoing research with this population of students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ramanathan, Vaidehi
Commitee: Menard-Warwick, Julia, Sánchez-Gutiérrez, Claudia
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Adult emergent literacy, Language education policy, Orthographic development, Second language acquisition
Publication Number: 27665867
ISBN: 9798645484798
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