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The Cambridge Handbook of Childhood Multilingualism provides a state-of-the art view of the intra- and interdisciplinarity in linguistics, psychology, sociology, and education through a kaleidoscope of languages, countries, scholars, and cultures. The volume provides: (1) understanding that for most children multilingualism is the linguistic reality in which they grow; (2) an analysis of the effect of languages flowing from different sources, at different times and in different forms, on the uniqueness of child multilingualism processing beyond mono/bilingualism; (3) insights into diversity in the socialization of multilingual children; (4) elaboration of the triangulation of childhood, parenthood, and schooling as natural multilingualism-cultivating conditions motivated by internal and external forces; (5) an integrative approach to multilingual children’s development where the child at the center is cradled by multilingualism and languages, and (6) a focus on multilingualism as a capacity independent from mono/bilingualism. The different language typologies, in different countries and different continents, gathered in this volume tease out what is universal to childhood multilingualism as an agent of “new linguistic realities.”
Childhood multilingualism has become a norm rather than an exception. This is the first handbook to survey state-of-the-art research on the uniqueness of early multilingual development in children growing up with more than two languages in contact. It provides in-depth accounts of the complexity and dynamics of early multilingualism by internationally renowned scholars who have researched typologically different languages in different continents. Chapters are divided into six thematic areas, following the trajectory, environment and conditions underlying the incipient and early stages of multilingual children's language development. The many facets of childhood multilingualism are approached from a range of perspectives, showcasing not only the challenges of multilingual education and child-rearing but also the richness in linguistic and cognitive development of these children from infancy to early schooling. It is essential reading for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the multiple aspects of multilingualism, seen through the unique prism of children.
I wish to place before the reader some of the usual descriptions of the Taj, and ask him to take note of the impressions left in his mind. These descriptions do really state the truth – as nearly as the limitations of languages will allow. But language is a treacherous thing, a most unsure vehicle, and it can seldom arrange descriptive words in such a way that they will not inflate the facts – by help of the reader’s imagination, which is always ready to take a hand and work for nothing, and do the bulk of it at that.
Mark Twain, Following the Equator, Ch. LIX
Our collaboration on this book began, fittingly, in the Basque country, when we were invited to talk about trilingualism. It is probably not accidental that this meeting should have encouraged us to embark on a project about multilingualism: we found ourselves in a bilingual country, were giving our papers in a third language, English, and we were drawing on our experiences of multilingual family environments.
For over half a century now, ‘bilingualism’ (the use of two languages) has become the subject of systematic scholarly investigation. Bilingualism has been scientifically reported on as an alternative to (sometimes as a divergence from) monolingualism. In this sense, the study of bilingualism encompassed any language situation in individuals or societies that involved more than one language. Mostly it covered contact situations between two languages but it also subsumed other contexts involving trilingualism or multilingualism. In this book we propose to look at ‘trilingualism’ (the use of three languages) and multilingualism (the use of more than two languages) as distinct from bilingualism because we feel that the subject merits separate treatment, both when looking at individuals who acquire and use three (or more) languages and when taking a wider sociolinguistic perspective. Naturally, it is not always possible to draw a clear line between the number of languages present in certain contact situations, especially in sociolinguistic contexts, and our use of the term multilingualism takes cognisance of that.