A comparison of Thai second person pronominal acquisition by Central Thai and Lahu children
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AbstractThis study examined the acquisition of Standard Thai second person pronominals by second language learners (the Lahu children) compared with native speakers (the Central Thai children) of the same age. The pronominals were divided into familiar (Ta and Tb), formal (V1), and formal-respect (V2) pronominals. Changes in children's use of pronominals with age, as they become both linguistically and socially more competent, and how social factors affect pronominal usage, were also investigated. Field observations, interviews, and pronominal eliciting production tasks were the methods for data collection. A regression analysis and t-tests were employed in statistical analysis.
Findings of the study showed that Central Thai children performed better than the Lahu children of the same age. However, the Lahu can perform better in certain cases when social factors are involved. The social factor "exposure to Thai language use" was found to be significant and more influential in the children's acquisition of Standard Thai second person pronominals than schooling. Overall, the Central Thai children's ability to use the pronominals progresses with age, assuming cross-sectional differences reflect actual longitudinal changes by the same cohort. This is not necessarily so for the second language learners. The Lahu children with more exposure to Thai language use, even if they were younger, could perform better than older children with less exposure. In conclusion, the acquisition of Standard Thai second person pronominals depends greatly upon a child's social environment, amount and kinds of exposure to social usage, age, and the complexity of the pronominal system itself.