The development of socially meaningful language variation in (pre)adolescents with Down Syndrome
This project studies the development of the social meaning of linguistic variation in (pre)adolescents with Down Syndrome (DS), given their unique developmental profile with strengths in social functioning and challenges with linguistic processing. The system for pronouns of address in Belgian Dutch displays two dimensions of socially meaningful variation (T/V and standard/colloquial) and serves as a case study. The key innovations are the consideration of participants’ full linguistic repertoire through several degrees of elicitation, approaching the caregiver-(pre)adolescent relationship experimentally and in a participatory research framework, and the integration of production and attitude data with the same participants. With 24 caregiver-(pre)adolescent dyads, this project investigates (a) participants’ variation in their productions of pronouns of address by observing spontaneous interaction and employing a discourse completion task, (b) participants’ variation in their evaluation of pronouns of address as socially meaningful by employing a task based on the speaker evaluation paradigm, (c) the role of the caregiver in the production and in the attitude perspective, and (d) how these perspectives are synthesized to a holistic picture within the individual dyads by employing a semi-structured interview. The correlation of the results with several measures for developmental age are examined to map out the development of socially meaningful linguistic variation.