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Language Maintenance – Language Attrition

The Case of Polish Children in Sweden

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Roman Laskowski

The monograph, based on broad studies into the Polish diaspora in Sweden, provides a picture of the social factors influencing the maintenance of the heritage language and culture by the second generation of emigrants. The author’s main objective, however, is to discover the systemic mechanisms underlying language acquisition by children in a bilingual setting and to investigate the influence of the interference from the dominant language on the acquisition of Polish. A particular attention is devoted to the category of case, which is absent from Swedish. Although it, generally, represents a description of a particular linguistic material, in fact the book addresses problems of the theory of language acquisition. The results and conclusions enable a better understanding of the universal semiotic and psychological principles that motivate the structure of the grammatical system of a natural language.
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Chapter 1 The Polish diaspora in a multicultural Europe

Extract

Millions of people in Europe have for centuries lived in a multicultural and multilingual setting. The great migration waves of the last fifty years or so have irrevocably altered the European landscape which was once the cradle of the Judaeo-Christian civilisation.

From time immemorial, Europe has been a melting pot of cultures, bearing witness to the (far too often bloody) intermingling of different peoples and coexistence of various languages. What is important here is not merely the existence of multiple nation states in Europe (which is a relatively new phenomenon) but the fact that there is probably no country in Europe that does not have at least one autochthonous ethnic minority, indigenous to the land for generations. This is, obviously, also true of the Slavic countries. For example, Poland has been home to generations of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Germans, Lithuanians and Kashubians, and Jews represented 10% of the country’s population before the Holocaust. In Slovakia, there are Hungarian, Ruthenian and Romany long-term minority residents. Russians make up nearly half the population of Ukraine, while Poles and Tatars have lived there for centuries; Russians are the largest minority group in Belarus, but there are also Poles. In Bulgaria, there are Turks and Romanies. The ethnic structure of Russia is also known to be very complex, as are the ethnic profiles of the former Yugoslavian countries (Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo).

Today, Europe is growing even more multicultural and multilingual, which is particularly evident in large metropolitan areas of western Europe....

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