Structural Aspects of Bilingual Speech

A Case Study of Language Use in the Russian Immigrant Community in Israel

by Elena Gasser (Author)
©2015 Thesis VIII, 214 Pages


The goal of the present study was to identify, describe and account for bilingual (Russian-Hebrew) varieties spoken in the Russian immigrant community in Israel. In order to achieve this complex goal, an interdisciplinary approach was chosen based on a combination of linguistic, psychological and sociological disciplines. The analysis of bilingual data has shown that there were three main types of bilingual varieties in use. The varieties were distinguished on the basis of the dominant patterns of language mixing (showing the evidence of a general shift from insertional to alternational CS) as well as of the directionality of CS. The three main speech styles were partly related to their speakers’ generational memberships. However, the differences in speech styles were not so much the function of generational affiliations, as of the actual linguistic behavior in the immigrants’ social lives. The variations within generational cohorts were better accounted for in terms of these speakers’ identities, attitudes and habitual language choices.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • 1 Einführung in deutscher Sprache
  • 2 Introduction
  • General Premises in the Theoretical Orientation
  • 3 Chapter I: Data Collection
  • 3.1 Russian Immigrant Community
  • 3.2 Data Collection: Methods and Procedures
  • 3.2.1 Participant Observation
  • 3.2.2 Questionnaire
  • 3.2.3 Social Networks Diagrams
  • 3.2.4 Tape Recording Participants
  • 4 Chapter II: Setting the Theoretical Framework
  • 4.1 Research on CS: Diverse Perspectives
  • 4.1.1 Poplack: Free Morpheme and Equivalence Constraints
  • 4.1.2 Myers-Scotton: MLF Model
  • The Nonce Borrowing and the MLF Models Compared.
  • 4.1.3 Muysken: Typology of CS
  • Insertion
  • Alternation
  • Congruent Lexicalization
  • 4.1.4 Backus: A Cognitive Grammar Approach to CS
  • Specificity Continuum
  • Awareness Continuum
  • Diachronic picture
  • Triggering
  • 4.1.5 Models of Code switching Compared
  • 4.1.6 Recent Developments in the MLF Model
  • MLF Model’s Implications for the Theory of Language Production
  • The 4-M Model
  • Implications of the 4-M Model for CS
  • The Abstract Level Model
  • Congruence
  • How the Abstract Level Model Relates to CS
  • Implications of the Abstract Level Model for Other Types of Contact Phenomena
  • Convergence
  • Matrix Language Turnover
  • Convergence and Attrition
  • Attrition and Language Shift
  • Markedness
  • Myers-Scotton’s Unified Theory of Contact Linguistics
  • 5 Chapter III: Structural Analysis of Bilingual Data
  • 5.1 Conversation 1: Useful Advice (Tamara & Tania)
  • 5.1.1 Sociolinguistic Background
  • Tamara
  • Tania
  • 5.1.2 Conversation
  • 5.1.3 Selection
  • 5.1.4 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • 5.1.5 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic integration
  • Subject
  • Direct Object
  • Indirect Object
  • 5.1.6 Summary
  • 5.2 Conversation 2: Sharing Holiday Impressions (Marina & Tamara)
  • 5.2.1 Conversation
  • 5.2.2 Selection
  • 5.2.3 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • 5.2.4 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic Integration
  • Switched Subjects
  • Switched Direct Objects
  • Indirect Complements of a Russian Verb
  • Copulative constructions
  • Possessive-BE Constructions
  • Adverbial Phrases
  • Compromise Strategies
  • EL islands
  • Compromised Morpheme Order
  • Inter-clausal CS
  • 5.2.5 Summary
  • 5.3 Conversation 3: Visiting Friends in Caesarea – Pt. I: Playing a Game (Katia & Danik)
  • 5.3.1 Conversation
  • 5.3.2 Selection
  • 5.3.3 Quantitative Data
  • Switches
  • 5.3.4 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic Integration
  • 5.3.5 Summary
  • 5.4 Conversation 3: Visiting Friends in Caesarea – Pt. II: At the Dinner Table (Katia, Zhenia & Danik)
  • 5.4.1 Sociolinguistic Background
  • Social Network
  • Attitudes
  • Reported Language Practices
  • 5.4.2 Conversation
  • 5.4.3 Selection
  • 5.4.4 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • 5.4.5 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Nouns
  • Adjectives
  • Verbs
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Plural Marking
  • PPs
  • Double Marking
  • Syntactic Integration
  • Possessive BE and Existential Constructions
  • Subject of the main clause
  • Direct Object
  • Copulative Constructions
  • Pronominal Copulative Constructions
  • Possessive-BE Constructions
  • Existential Constructions
  • Compromise Strategies
  • Flagged Switches
  • Partial Integration
  • Bare Forms
  • Compromise in Word Order
  • CS above the PC (Projection of Complementizer) Level
  • Inter-clausal CS – Quoted speech
  • Coordinating Constructions
  • Discourse Markers
  • 5.4.6 Summary
  • Connections between Language Choice and Language Use
  • 5.5 Conversation 4: Pt. I – Family Talk (Lena & Alex)
  • 5.5.1 Sociolinguistic Background
  • Language and Identity
  • Media
  • Attitudes toward Russian and Hebrew
  • Attitudes toward Native Israelis
  • Social Network
  • 5.5.2 Conversation
  • 5.5.3 Selection
  • 5.5.4 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • 5.5.5 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic Integration
  • Integration of Verbs
  • Compromise Strategies
  • Word order
  • Bare Forms
  • Problematic Cases
  • Bidirectional CS
  • From Russian to Hebrew:
  • Convergence
  • Structural Borrowing
  • Triggering
  • Code switching above the Complementizer Projection Level
  • Inter-clausal CS
  • Quoted Speech
  • Relative Clauses
  • Conditional Clauses
  • Coordinate Clauses
  • 5.5.6 Summary
  • 5.6 Conversation 4: Pt. II – Receiving a Guest (Lena & Alex)
  • 5.6.1 Conversation
  • 5.6.2 Selection
  • 5.6.3 Quantitative Data
  • Turns/Switches
  • 5.6.4 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Attrition
  • 5.6.5 Summary
  • 5.7 Conversation 5: Family Dinner in Beer Sheva – (Lida & Michael Visit Lida’s Parents)
  • 5.7.1 Sociolinguistic Background
  • Attitudes, Identity, Language Choice
  • 5.7.2 Conversation
  • 5.7.3 Selection
  • 5.7.4 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • 5.7.5 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic Integration
  • Compromise Strategies: EL islands
  • Code switching above the Projection of Complementizer Level
  • 5.7.6 Summary
  • 5.8 Conversation 6: Bat Yam Peers (Ira, Yulia & Sasha)
  • 5.8.1 Sociolinguistic background
  • Attitudes, Identity, Language Choice
  • Yulia
  • Attitudes towards Russian and Hebrew
  • Ira
  • Sasha
  • Attitudes towards Hebrew
  • Attitudes towards Native Israelis
  • 5.8.2 Conversation
  • 5.8.3 Selection
  • 5.8.4 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • Directionality of CS
  • 5.8.5 Structural Patterns
  • CS from Hebrew to Russian
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic Integration
  • Convergence
  • CS above the CP Level
  • Intersentential CS
  • Inter-clausal CS to Russian
  • Subordinated Constructions
  • Quoted Speech
  • Relative Clauses
  • Coordinating Constructions
  • Switching to Hebrew
  • 5.8.6 Summary
  • Sasha
  • Ira
  • Yulia
  • 5.9 Conversation 7: Last Day before School (Lena & Diana)
  • 5.9.1 Sociolinguistic Background
  • 5.9.2 Conversation
  • 5.9.3 Selection
  • 5.9.4 Quantitative Data
  • Turns
  • Switches
  • 5.9.5 Structural Patterns
  • Morphological Integration
  • Morphosyntactic Integration
  • Syntactic integration
  • Flagging
  • Compromise Strategies
  • EL Islands
  • Convergence/Attrition
  • Triggering
  • Non-Contact Induced Changes
  • Switching Above the CP Level
  • Inter-clausal CS
  • Quoted Speech
  • 5.9.6 Summary
  • 6 Chapter IV: Generalizations
  • 6.1 Prototypes
  • 6.1.1 1st Group
  • 6.1.2 2nd Group
  • 6.1.3 3rd Group
  • 6.2 Inter-Speaker Differences within Generations
  • 6.2.1 Correlations between Linguistic Proficiency and CS Patterns
  • 6.2.2 How Language Choice Accounts for Inter-speaker Differences in Language Use in the Present Corpus of Data
  • 1st Group
  • 2nd Group
  • 3rd Group
  • 6.3 Summary
  • 7 Chapter V: Diachronic Perspective
  • 7.1 ML Turnover
  • 7.2 Language Maintenance or Shift in the Russian Immigrant Community?
  • 7.2.1 Factors Influencing L1 Maintenance
  • 7.2.2 Geopolitical Changes and Their Linguistic Consequences for Russian Immigrants from 1970s and 1990s Immigration Waves to Israel
  • 7.2.3 Conclusion
  • 8 Bibliography
  • 9 Appendix
  • 9.1 Conversation 1: Useful Advice (Tamara & Tania)
  • 9.2 Conversation 2: Sharing Holiday Impressions (Marina & Tamara)
  • 9.3 Conversation 3: Visiting Friends in Caesarea
  • 9.3.1 1st Part: Playing a Game (Katia & Danik)
  • 9.3.2 2nd Part: At the Dinner Table (Katia, Zhenia & Danik)
  • 9.4 Conversation 4 (Lena & Alex)
  • 9.4.1 1st Part: Family Talk
  • 9.4.2 2nd Part: Receiving a Guest
  • 9.5 Conversation 5: Dinner in Beer Sheva (Lida & Michael visit Lida’s parents)
  • 9.6 Conversation 6: Bat-Yam Peers (Ira, Yulia & Sasha)
  • 9.7 Conversation 7: Last Day before School (Lena & Diana)

1Einführung in deutscher Sprache

In unserem Zeitalter des geopolitischen Wandels nimmt die Mobilität der Erdbevölkerung drastisch zu. Sprachkontakt ist eine der Folgen eines solchen Wandels. Im Immigrationskontext kann die Struktur der Muttersprache von Migranten durch den beständigen Kontakt zu der anderen (offiziellen) Sprache beeinflusst werden und zu Sprachwandel in den folgenden Generationen führen. Die Form der betroffenen Sprache sowie die Aussichten auf ihren Erhalt in der Sprachgemeinschaft hängen von verschiedenen Faktoren ab, die sich von Gemeinschaft zu Gemeinschaft unterscheiden. So spielen z.B. die typologischen Eigenschaften der kontaktierenden Sprachen sowie die soziolinguistischen und psycholinguistischen Faktoren eine entscheidende Rolle in der Art und Weise, wie die zwei Sprachen gebraucht werden, wie sie interagieren und welche Endergebnisse der Sprachkontakt in der betroffenen Sprachgemeinschaft haben wird.

Das Hauptinteresse dieser Studie gilt dem russisch-hebräischen Sprachkontakt in Israel. Diese Sprachgemeinschaft ist insoweit interessant, als die russisch-jüdischen Einwanderer keine Immigranten im engen Sinne dieses Wortes sind, sondern Rückkehrer in ihr historisches Heimatland, oder zumindest als solche von dem aufnehmenden Land betrachtet werden. Eine weitere Besonderheit besteht darin, dass die russische Sprachgemeinschaft in Israel sehr umfangreich vertreten ist (jeder 6. Israeli spricht Russisch als Muttersprache). Darüber hinaus haben ca. 70 % der russischen Immigranten einen akademischen Abschluss (zumindest in der 1. Generation). Dies hat seine unmittelbaren Folgen für den Status der russischen Sprache in Israel, den Sprachgebrauch in der russischen Gemeinde und die Struktur der bilingualen Varietäten, die von verschiedenen Gemeinschaftsmitgliedern in informellen Situationen gebraucht werden.

Das Ziel und die Herausforderung dieser Arbeit ist es, die Sprachvarietäten zu beschreiben und zu erklären, welche in der russischen Sprachgemeinschaft in Israel im Gebrauch sind. Ferner wird ein Versuch unternommen, die Erhaltung der russischen Sprache in der russischen Sprachgemeinschaft zu prognostizieren. Dies erfordert einen theoretischen Ansatz, der aus einer Kombination von soziolinguistischen, psycholinguistischen, typologischen und sprachanalytischen Aspekten besteht und der erlaubt, eine rein strukturelle Sprachanalyse auf dem individuellen (d.h. Konversations-) Niveau in eine soziolinguistische Studie des Sprachgebrauchs auf der Ebene der Sprachgemeinschaft einzubetten sowie die Folgen des Sprachkontakts (im Sinne des Sprachwandels) für die kommenden Generationen vorauszusagen. In Kapitel II werde ich versuchen, eine solche theoretische Grundlage für meine Analyse zu erarbeiten. In diesem Kapitel wird auch ← 1 | 2 → ein Überblick über die wichtigsten Ansätze im Bereich des Sprachkontakts dargeboten. In Kapitel I werde ich die Methodik und Vorgehensweise bei meiner Datenerhebung in Israel beschreiben. Kapitel III ist der grammatischen Analyse des Sprachkorpus’ gewidmet, der aus informellen Konversationen zwischen den Freunden oder Familienangehörigen besteht, die von mir in Israel aufgenommen (und transkribiert) wurden. In Kapitel IV werden die Ergebnisse der einzelnen Konversationen evaluiert und die 3 Prototypen (Hauptmuster) von Sprachvarietäten beschrieben. In Kapitel V werde ich versuchen, die in Kapitel IV dargestellten Ergebnisse meiner Studie in eine diachrone Perspektive zu setzen, indem ich die historischen und soziopolitischen Bedingungen erläutere, welche das Schicksal der russischen Sprache in Israel beeinflussen können. ← 2 | 3 →


When people move to a new country they will inevitably be faced with the need to acquire a new language in addition to their own. The pressure to do so will be big enough since the solution of everyday problems in the new setting will thoroughly depend on their proficiency in the host country’s official language. The issues of housing, employment, and the education of their children will present themselves as the first problem areas in which “the notion of language as social power becomes very real and immediate” (Olstain and Kotik 2000:202). Thus, realizing that their (and their children’s) social and economic advancement in the new setting is unthinkable without solid linguistic skills in the host language, the newcomers will engage in the learning process and become L2 students on a par with their children. From now on, these learners’ two languages (i.e. their L1 and L2) will be permanently in contact and, over time, even more so, as the increase in proficiency in the second language (L2) will inevitably lead to the greater interaction between the linguistic systems involved. The exact form that interaction will take will thoroughly depend on a variety of psycholinguistic (degree of bilingual proficiency, language attitudes) and sociolinguistic (e.g. level of education, generational membership, etc.) factors as well as on typological characteristics (typological distance/closeness) of the participating languages. It follows from there that in bilingual contact settings and especially in immigration contexts, there is a great deal of variation between speakers with regard to the formal characteristics of their bilingual speech. Studying bilingual varieties spoken by German and Dutch immigrants to Australia, Clyne comes to the conclusion that

there are as many varieties of migrant languages in Australia as there are speakers, since the nature and degree of English influence and general adaptation of the base language to the Australian context will largely depend on the individual speaker’s activities and life-style as well as on his or her experience in both languages (Clyne 1985:94).

To put this apparently limitless linguistic diversity on systematic grounds, Backus suggests describing variation on both an individual and a community level by using the notion of prototype. Prototypes allow us “to lump together any group of data which show certain similarities”. Prototypes of bilingual lects are usually identified on the basis of their phonological, morphological, lexical and syntactic characteristics. “Structural cohesiveness” and “functional appropriateness” are more general characteristics of bilingual varieties. The existence of different types of bilingual lects in a given speech community can be efficiently explained by referring to extra-linguistic factors. Several variables (such as gender, generation, level of education, or personal social networks) have been shown in the literature ← 3 | 4 → to correlate with distinct patterns in bilingual language use. In many cases the interrelations between several variables enabled a better explanation for variations in speech patterns. For example, Li Wei (1995), related differing code switching behaviours among diverse members of the Chinese immigrant community in Britain to generational differences in patterns of language choice, which in turn were considered to derive from the age-related distinctions in social network types. As the findings of Li Wei’s study have shown, the members of the ‘parent’ generation in the Chinese community contracted social ties essentially with Chinese speakers within the community while their children’s social networks were more English oriented. As a result of these network-based differences, the parent generation spoke more Chinese and the child generation more English in their daily lives. Consequently, parent generation’s English proficiency was significantly lower than that of the child generation. This had its effects on the language-mixing behaviour of the two generations. Furthermore, the inter-speaker differences within generational cohorts were explained in Li Wei (1995) by social variables such as gender and occupation. These were found to affect the ethnic profile (and thus, language choice) of the speakers’ social networks.

In accordance with these observations, bilingual speech in an immigrant community may include everything from the simple insertion of single L2 words into basically monolingual L1 speech, to a more complex intertwining of the two linguistic systems. This is usually referred to in the literature as interference or convergence phenomena and is often put in connection with the ongoing language shift.

General Premises in the Theoretical Orientation

This present study focuses on Russian-Hebrew bilingual contact. The main purpose is to identify, describe and account for Russian-Hebrew contact varieties (or “Hebrash”) spoken in informal settings in the Russian immigrant community in Israel.

In analysing bilingual data, I will adopt terminology and theoretical concepts developed by Myers-Scotton (1993, 1995, 1997, and 2003). In addition, I will relate my interpretations to notions from cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics such as entrenchment and triggering discussed in Backus (1996). Although the main focus will be placed on the structural analysis of bilingual data, attention will be given to the informants’ personal social networks which are supposed to affect the actual linguistic behaviour of these individuals. For this purpose I will adopt the social network concepts presented in Milroy and Wei (1995) as well as in Barden and Großkopf (1998). The social network approach will also be relied ← 4 | 5 → upon to formulate hypotheses about language maintenance or shift in the Russian immigrant community. More precisely, in order to predict the fate of the Russian language in Israel a link will be established between the immigrant community and the mainstream social setting. This will enable insight into the higher-level social and political mechanisms underlying processes of language maintenance or shift.

The paper is organized as follows: Chapter I presents methods used in the collection of the data for the present study. Chapter II provides an overview of the most important developments in code switching research. In this chapter, four major models of CS will be presented of which two (Backus’ and Myers-Scottons’ models) will be relied on in describing and accounting for bilingual data in the present analysis. In Chapter III the participants will be introduced and the Russian/Hebrew bilingual data analyzed. In Chapter IV generalisations will be put forward and in Chapter V the results will be put in a diachronic perspective. The discussion about prospects for the Russian language maintenance in the Russian community in Israel will be the central topic in the last chapter. ← 5 | 6 → ← 6 | 7 →

3Chapter I: Data Collection

3.1Russian Immigrant Community

The history of Russian immigration to Israel dates back to the late 19th century when the first wave of Jewish Aliah (literally: ascending) consisting of approximately 35,000 people arrived in Palestine between 1882 and 1891 with the aim to renew Jewish life in the ancestral homeland. The majority of the olim were Jews from Russia with a smaller number coming from Yemen. Many of the Russian Jews belonged to the early Zionist movements. They established agricultural communities, created new settlements which later grew into towns. The second wave, about 40,000 mostly Russian Jews came during the period from 1904 to 1914. These immigrants were greatly inspired by socialist ideals. They founded the first kibbutzim and dedicated themselves to the revival of Hebrew language and renewal of its use among the Jewish population in Palestine. Thanks to their efforts the Modern Hebrew dictionary was created; newspapers and literature written in Hebrew were published; and the first Hebrew high school was established in Ahuzat Bayit, a suburb of Jaffa which grew into the city of Tel Aviv. The First World War brought an end to this immigration. The third wave of circa 40,000 Jews from Russia arrived between 1919 and 1923. Among these immigrants were many halutzim, pioneers who drained marsh plains and converted the unusable areas into fertile agricultural zones.

These three first waves of the Zionism-inspired Russian immigration left their imprint on the country. Their ideas, books and memoirs influenced generations of later immigrants. Most importantly, the first immigrants modernized the Hebrew language and re-established its use within the Jewish community in Palestine, which in the early 1920s already numbered some 90,000 people.


VIII, 214
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (January)
Zweisprachigkeit Sprachwechsel Spracherwerb
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VIII, 214 pp., 14 tables, 1 graph

Biographical notes

Elena Gasser (Author)

Elena Gasser studied General Lingustics, French Philology and Modern German Literature at the Free University of Berlin. She worked in diverse research projects at the FU Berlin. Currently she is employed as a lecturer at the Pedagogical Academy in Berlin and dedicates herself to the examination of language shift in Assyrian communities in the South Caucasus.


Title: Structural Aspects of Bilingual Speech
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