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Language acquisition of Turkish- and Russian-speaking children in Berlin: linguistic and socio-economic factors

Natalia Gagarina

(ZAS Berlin)

Although Berlin as a metropolis is characterized by the high language diversity, nobody knows for sure how many languages are spoken in this city every day (the linguists even don’t have the exact number of the existing languages in the world). Still some facts about the languages are certain – Russian and Turkish-speakers constitute the biggest diaspora both in Berlin and in Germany with the Russian-speaking population prevailing over the Turkish-speaking population. The development of these two home languages together with German as an environment language was investigated in the transversal study of the Berlin Interdisciplinary Association of Multilingualism (BIVEM study http://www.zas.gwz-berlin.de/bivem.html). The aim of my contribution, which uses the data of the BIVEM study, is to determine whether and which differences do Turkish- or Russian-speaking preschool children show in their acquisition of lexicon, syntax and narratives. Furthermore, I examine the impact of social background on language acquisition.

Lexicon and syntax were chosen as being the problematic areas for the successive language acquisition (cf. Armon-Lotem et al. 2011; Rothweiler et al. 2010). Narrative skills at the macro structural level are interesting because they are language independent and associate between languages (Gagarina 2016); they should create no acquisition challenge for children with a migration background. I suggest, that language development in all three investigated areas associate with the social status of children’s families.