Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Chapters

2022
Simonsen, H.D.G. & Southwood, F. 2022. Child language assessment across different multilingual contexts: Insights and challenges from South and North. In: U. Røyneland & R. Blackwood. Multilingualism across the Lifespan. New York: Routledge. pp. 11-30.

2021
Sociocultural factors affecting vocabulary development in young South African children
Frenette Southwood, Michelle J. White, Heather Brookes, Michelle Pascoe, Mikateko Ndhambi, Sefela Yalala, Olebeng Mahura, Martin Mössmer, Helena Oosthuizen, Nina Brink &Katie Alcock

Sociocultural influences on the development of child language skills have been widely studied, but the majority of the research findings were generated in Northern contexts. The current crosslinguistic, multisite study is the first of its kind in South Africa, considering the influence of a range of individual and sociocultural factors on expressive vocabulary size of young children. Caregivers of toddlers aged 16 to 32 months acquiring Afrikaans (n = 110), isiXhosa (n = 115), South African English (n = 105), or Xitsonga (n = 98) as home language completed a family background questionnaire and the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) about their children.

Based on a revised version of Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological systems theory, information was obtained from the family background questionnaire on individual factors (the child’s age and sex), microsystem-related factors (the number of other children and number of adults in the child’s household, maternal level of education, and SES), and exosystem-related factors (home language and geographic area, namely rural or urban). All sociocultural and individual factors combined explained 25% of the variance in expressive vocabulary size. Partial correlations between these sociocultural factors and the toddlers’ expressive vocabulary scores on 10 semantic domains yielded important insights into the impact of geographic area on the nature and size of children’s expressive vocabulary. Unlike in previous studies, maternal level of education and SES did not play a significant role in predicting children’s expressive vocabulary scores.

These results indicate that there exists an interplay of sociocultural and individual influences on vocabulary development that requires a more complex ecological model of language development to understand the interaction between various sociocultural factors in diverse contexts.

Frenette Southwood, Michelle J. White, Heather Brookes, Michelle Pascoe, Mikateko Ndhambi, Sefela Yalala, Olebeng Mahura, Martin Mössmer, Helena Oosthuizen, Nina Brink, and Katie Alcock. (2021). Sociocultural factors affecting vocabulary development in young South African children, Frontiers in Psychology, 12:642315, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.642315


2020
Afrikaanse taalvariasie: Uitdagings vir regverdige meting van jong kinders se taal
Frenette Southwood & Helena Oosthuizen

Sowat 5% van alle kinders toon ‘n taalagterstand (Law, Boyle, Harris, Harkness en Nye 2000) en daar is aanduidings dat hierdie syfer hoër is in Suid-Afrika, veral onder baie jong kinders (Van der Linde, Swanepoel, Sommerville, Glascoe, Vinck en Louw 2016). Geen voldoende instrument bestaan waarmee vasgestel kan word watter jong Afrikaanssprekendes hulp sal benodig om toekomstige taalverwante akademiese probleme te oorkom nie. Hierdie artikel lewer verslag oor uitdagings wat weens Afrikaanse taalvariasie ervaar word tydens die ontwikkeling van ‘n ouervraelys waarmee jong kinders se taal gemeet kan word. Hierdie vraelys beslaan vrae oor vroeg-ontwikkelende kommunikatiewe gebare, eerste woorde en vroeë sinskonstruksies, en ouers word versoek om op die lys aan te dui watter gebare, woorde en konstruksies hul kind verstaan en/of voortbring. Die vraelys kan nie onbeperk verleng word nie, want die voltooiing daarvan moet ‘n realistiese taak bly, ook vir ouers met lae geletterdheidsvlakke (vgl. Alcock, Rimba, Holding, Kitsao-Wekulo, Abubakar en Newton 2015). Besluite oor die insluiting of uitsluiting op die vraelys van woorde uit spesifieke Afrikaanse variëteite is egter gereeld nie voor die hand liggend nie.

Bestaande taalmetingsinstrumente diskrimineer wêreldwyd tipies teen kinders wat nie deel van die dominante kultuur en taalgemeenskap vorm nie. Gegee Suid-Afrika se bevlekte geskiedenis wat die erkenning van sprekers van niegestandaardiseerde taal variëteite betref (vgl. bv. Hendricks 2012; Williams 2016), is die opstel van ‘n geldige ouervraelys ononderhandelbaar. Daar moet dus noukeurig oorweeg word watter woorde op die lys verskyn, want ‘n goeie ouervraelys sal bydra tot kultureel- en talig-regverdige taaltoetsing van jong Afrikaanssprekende kinders. Dit sal help om kinders te identifiseer wat sukkel om hul taal te verwerf en wat ekstra hulp benodig sodat hul taal genoegsaam kan verbeter vóór hul formele skoolloopbaan begin. Sodoende sal hulle ‘n groter kans hê om die kurrikulum te verstaan, skoolsukses te ervaar en’n lang genoeg skoolloopbaan te hê om hul potensiaal te verwesenlik.


Approximately 5% of children show a language delay (Law, Boyle, Harris, Harkness and Nye 2000), and there are indications that this figure is higher in South Africa, especially amongst very young children (Van der Linde, Swanepoel, Sommerville, Glascoe, Vinck and Louw 2016). There are no adequate instruments with which to ascertain which young Afrikaans-speaking children will require assistance to overcome future language-related academic problems. This article reports on the challenges experienced owing to Afrikaans language variation during the development of a parent questionnaire with which the language acquisition of young children can be measured. This questionnaire comprises questions on early developing communicative gestures, first words, and early grammatical constructions, and parents are requested to indicate on the list which gestures, words and constructions their child comprehends and/or produces. The length of the questionnaire needs to be contained, because the completion of the questionnaire should remain a realistic task for parents, also for those with low literacy levels. Decisions regarding the inclusion or exclusion on the questionnaire of the words found in specific varieties of Afrikaans are however often not straightforward.

Existing language assessment instruments the world over typically discriminate against children who are not part of the dominant culture and language community. Given South Africa’s stained history with regard to the recognition of speakers of non-standardised language varieties (cf., e.g., Hendricks 2012; Williams 2016), the compiling of a valid parental questionnaire is non-negotiable. It is thus necessary to consider carefully which words should appear on the list, because a good parental questionnaire can contribute to culturally and linguistically fair language assessment of young Afrikaans-speaking children. Such a questionnaire will assist in identifying children who struggle to acquire their language and who need extra assistance in order for their language to improve sufficiently before the commencement of their school careers. That way, they will have a better chance of accessing the curriculum, of experiencing academic success, and of having a sufficiently long school career to realise their potential.

Frenette Southwood, Helena Oosthuizen, and the Southern African CDI team. 2020. Afrikaanse taalvariasie: Uitdagings vir regverdige meting van jong kinders se taal. SPiL PLUS 59: 81-104.


2018
Working towards culturally and linguistically diverse speech assessments for South African children: A Xhosa case study
Tessa Dowling & Emma Whitelaw

There is a lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate tools for assessing the speech and language development of South African infants and toddlers, particularly those who speak southern African Bantu languages. This article sets out to describe our experiences of the pre-pilot phase of the Xhosa adaptation of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDIs). To this end, a background to the CDIs is provided, as well as discussion on biases in assessments. Data informing this discussion is drawn from observations of the spontaneous speech and gestures of Xhosa-speaking toddlers in the 16−30 month age group in both rural and urban areas, as well as focus groups and individual interviews with mothers and professional caregivers of Xhosa-speaking toddlers.

Tessa Dowling and Emma Whitelaw. (2018). Working towards culturally and linguistically diverse speech assessments for South African children: A Xhosa case study, Language Matters, 49:2, 39-61, DOI: 10.1080/10228195.2018.1467479


Conference Presentations

2022

Child Language Development: Taking stock and looking to the future. Workshop at the Southern African Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Society conference 2022, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, 27–30 June 2022.
Marguerite De Jongh. 2022. Collaboration between Teachers and Speech Language therapists: Supporting multilingual learners with speech, language and communication needs.
Carol Bloch. 2022. State of Early Childhood Development in South Africa.
Amina Abubakar. 2022. Measuring early language development in the health sector on the African context: Experiences from Kenya.
Virginia Marchman. 2022. Measuring early language development in US and Senegal – past and latest developments (what can be done).
Ngazibini Booi. 2022. Experiences of speech and language therapists in South Africa.
Nomfundo Buthelezi, Michelle Pascoe, Mikateko Ndhambi. 2022. Needs of Speech and Language Therapy in South Africa.
Anne Baker. 2022. The social and economic costs of underdeveloped language capacity locally and globally.

Sefela Yalala and Heather Brookes. 2022. Early production of actions and gestures in six South African languages. Paper presented International Society for Gesture Studies 9th conference,13–15 July, Chicago, USA

Sefela Yalala and Heather Brookes. 2022. Early production of actions and gestures in six South African languages. Paper presented at the Southern African Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Society conference 2022, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, 27–30 June 2022.

Mikateko Ndhambi, Babalwa Ludidi, Sefela Yalala, Patricia Makaure and Heather Brookes. 2022. Length of utterance – morpheme or words? A study of early language development. Paper presented at the Southern African Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Society conference 2022, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, 27–30 June 2022.

Nina Brink, Helena Oosthuizen, Frenette Southwood and Michelle White. 2022. Afrikaans- and South African English-speaking infants who say 10 words or less: Variability in their expressive vocabulary. Paper presented at the Southern African Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Society conference 2022, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, 27–30 June 2022.

Michelle J. White & Frenette Southwood. 2022. Does geographical location influence toddlers’ lexical knowledge? Findings from South Africa. Paper presented at the Eight European Network Meeting on Communicative Development Inventories – EUNM-CDI 2022, University of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 15–17 May 2022.

2021

Frenette Southwood, Helena Oosthuizen, Michelle White, Heather Brookes, Tessa Dowling, Michelle Pascoe, Mikateko Ndhambi, and Katie Alcock. 2021. Equivalent child language assessment instruments across languages: Southern Africa CDI. Paper presented at the International Symposium on Bilingualism 13, Warsaw University, Poland, 14 July 2021.

2019

Katie Alcock, Tessa Dowling, Michelle Pascoe, Olebeng Mahura, Heather Brookes, Mikateko Ndhambi, Frenette Southwood, and Helena Oosthuizen. 2019. Multilingual construction of Communicative Development Inventories in Southern Africa. Poster presentation at the Child Language Symposium, University of Sheffield, England, July 2019.

Michelle Pascoe, Mikateko Ndhambi, Olebeng Mahura, Sefela Yalala, Heather Brookes, Helena Oosthuizen, and Frenette Southwood. 2019. Multilingualism in Southern Africa: Challenges and Opportunities.  Invited seminar presentation at Linköping University, Sweden, November 2019.

2018

Michelle Pascoe, Olebeng Mahura, Heather Brookes, Tessa Dowling, Helena Oosthuizen, Frenette Southwood, Naledi Kgolo, Rose Letsholo, and Katie Alcock. 2018. Towards Communicative Development Inventories for Southern African children. Poster presentation at the Workshop on Current Issues in Child Bilingual Development, Sydney, Australia, 26-27 July 2018.

2017

Frenette Southwood, Heather Brookes, Tessa Dowling, Helena Oosthuizen, Michelle Pascoe, and the Southern African CDI team. 2017. Addressing the Challenges that language variation poses for fair child assessment. Presentation at the workshop Language variation, contact, and change: South African perspectives, Stellenbosch University, September 2017.