Quebec-based parents’ attitudes towards childhood multilingualism: Evaluative dimensions and potential predictors

  • Kircher, R. (Speaker)
  • Erin Quirk (Speaker)
  • Melanie Brouillard (Speaker)
  • Alexa Ahooja (Speaker)
  • Susan Ballinger (Speaker)
  • Linda Polka (Speaker)
  • Krista Byers-Heinlein (Speaker)

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


Attitudes towards individual languages have two main evaluative dimensions: status and solidarity (e.g. Giles & Watson, 2013). These attitudes influence a wide range of linguistic behaviours, including parents’ decisions regarding intergenerational language transmission (Kircher, 2019). Conceptually distinct from attitudes towards individual languages are attitudes towards multilingualism (Baker, 1992). Theoretical models have posited that parental attitudes towards multilingualism also constitute a crucial determinant of intergenerational transmission (e.g. De Houwer, 2020). Yet, there is a paucity of empirical research regarding this. Moreover, little is known about the dimensionality of such attitudes – or their predictors.
Here, we present the first large-scale study of the evaluative dimensions and potential predictors of Quebec-based parents’ attitudes towards childhood multilingualism. Using a questionnaire, we gathered data from 825 parents raising an infant/toddler aged 0-4 years multilingually. Factor analysis revealed three separate dimensions: In addition to status and solidarity (the same dimensions found in attitudes towards individual languages) we found evidence of a cognitive development dimension (which had not previously been attested as a separate dimension). Attitudes on the latter manifested in parents’ belief that being multilingual entails cognitive benefits for their child, such as making them a better learner and a more flexible thinker.
Multiple regressions revealed the combination of languages transmitted – and specifically, whether this included a heritage language – to be the main predictor of parental attitudes towards childhood multilingualism. We discuss the implications of our findings: firstly, for models of intergenerational language transmission, and secondly, in terms of practical support for parents raising multilingual infants/toddlers.
Periode25 jun. 2022
Mate van erkenningInternationaal