Call for postgraduate applications for funding: The linguistics of literacy in the foundation phase
The Department of English Language and Linguistics invites applications from excellent prospective postgraduate students for full-time study of the linguistics of literacy in the foundation phase as part of the project: “Strategic Early Literacy Imperative: Linguistic and social partnerships in Foundation-Phase Learning in African languages.”
Masters and PhD scholarships available 2013—2015.
The following scholarships are available for 2014:
- 1 x PhD scholarship (2 years)
- 3 x Masters Scholarships (2 years)
- Multiple teaching-assistant scholarships for postgraduates at any level.
Deadline for applications is 25 November 2013.
South African foundation-phase literacy is in a deep crisis – especially literacy in languages of the Bantu language family (see http://www.ru.ac.za/englishlanguageandlinguistics/research/sandisaimbewu/). Although this is a multifaceted problem requiring input from policy analysts, political scientists, education specialists, child psychologists and sociologists, this project focusses on the specific contributions that can be made by linguists. This includes the following dimensions:
- Sociolinguistic-dialectological dimension which interacts with language standardization and the mismatch between home languages and languages of teaching and learning.
- Morpho-syntactic dimensions: the mismatch between psycholinguistic and orthographic representations of words and morphemes with the attendant need for thorough linguistic analysis of African languages within descriptive and theoretical frameworks.
- Concepts such as phonological, morphological, syntactic awarenesses which are known to have effects for literacy and their extension to Bantu languages in ways that take the linguistic structures of these languages into consideration e.g. is morphological awareness necessarily the same thing in English vs isiZulu given the different morphological structures and how these are mapped orthographically?
- Semantic dimensions: the development of productive and receptive capacities for entailed and presupposed meaning in children and how these interact with text.
- Linguistic-educative dimensions: the lack of educational resources such as reading norms, vocabulary lists, graded texts, testing instruments, comprehension tests, Flesch-Kincaid scores etc.
- Other dimensions.
To provide further contextualization, here are the titles of some current research being pursued by our current students.
- An exploratory study of phonological awareness in isiXhosa
- Morphological awareness as a predictor of literacy in isiXhosa
- The effect of word length and syllable structure on reading in isiXhosa and English children
- Vocabulary development of bilingual isiXhosa and English speaking children
- Orthographic and phonological effects on decoding strategies amongst bilingual children
- Agreement resolution strategies under coordination as a predictor of morphological awareness in SeSotho
Eligibility: This funded, three-year, multi-disciplinary research project welcomes applications from anybody who has an interest in the specific contributions that Linguistics can make to early literacy, especially, but not exclusively as they relate to African languages. Suitable background includes ANY type of linguistics (including descriptive linguistics, formal/theoretical/generative linguistics, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, applied linguistics etc.). Applicants with a background in a cognate field will also be considered (e.g. Education, psychology, academic development, languages etc.). Competence in or willingness to study a language of the Bantu language family would be an advantage but is not a requirement. Preference will also be given to candidates who supply a coherent proposal and who intend to stay on-campus for at least the first academic year.
Curriculum: Given the broad scope of the project, research projects may be either applied or theoretical in nature. Postgraduate degrees usually consist of a combination of thesis and coursework modules to be chosen in consultation with your supervisor. There are also opportunities for fieldwork, community engagement, conference attendance, as well as teaching and tutoring to develop your academic profile. The academic year starts in January. Although all students must be registered full-time, it is possible to accommodate off-campus students who travel to Grahamstown for specific coursework modules.
How to apply: To apply, please send an email to Mark de Vos (m.devos @ ru.ac.za) containing your name and contact details, an initial title of your research project/dissertation and a short outline or proposal of what you envisage your research to be. The proposal/outline should be one page of text (A4 or Letter, 12-point, single spaced, Times New Roman with normal margins) and, if necessary, a further page for references, data, notes etc. Note that this is simply an initial outline and that your research topic may change substantially over time as you develop as a postgraduate student.
If you have specific questions about the project, contact Dr Mark de Vos (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also read more about the project and its rationale at http://www.ru.ac.za/englishlanguageandlinguistics/research/sandisaimbewu/
More information about the Department can be found at: (http://www.ru.ac.za/englishlanguageandlinguistics/postgraduates/)
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