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Personhood and conceptual restructuring in the bilingual mind: Exploration of Vietnamese-English bilinguals’ conceptualisations of person address and reference

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posted on 2023-01-18, 15:43 authored by Ngoc Lan Anh Le
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School of Education, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

This study investigates relationships between language use and perception using a combined conceptual framework grounded in Pavlenko’s conceptual restructuring framework, Slobin’s “thinking for speaking” and Grosjean’s bilingual mode model. Using this combined conceptual framework, my exploratory study of the perceptual restructuring of Vietnamese-English international students in Australia employs a semi-structured interview and a language task that is comprised of a set of conversations and responses to a computerised morphing perception scale to draw out different aspects of personhood. The findings about perception and language use show complex patterns of positioning and interaction among the participants without clear influences of any single individual or interactional variable: Participants are spread through complex clusters, and variables such as age, gender and length of residence are not significant. The qualitative data, mostly from the interviews, take into consideration the presence and interaction of different forces in the thinking processes that relate to certain decisions about language use among the participants. On the basis of the findings, I propose a plurilingual forces framework to understand the “thinking” component in Slobin’s “thinking for speaking” framework. The forces are (i) personhood, i.e. how a person positions themselves with the systems in their communicative repertoires and with their interlocutors in different communicative situations, (ii) the extent to which the person views those systems in their repertoires as distinctive or co-operating, and (iii) the extent to which the person is more systemoriented or more person-oriented in their communicative decision making. These forces interact, creating complex and dynamic processes that operate as the preparation stages for individual language decisions observed in an individual’s communication.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. School of Education.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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