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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 Disintegration of the case system in idiolects of the Polish diaspora

Extract

Part III of the present study focuses on phenomena related to the category of case: the acquisition and decay of case in the situation of Swedish interference on the speech of children in the Polish diaspora. It must be remembered here that the category of case is missing from the Swedish language, while Polish is characterised by a rich and complex case system.134 A child acquiring Polish in the Swedish linguistic environment is therefore subject to the pressure of the Swedish linguistic system, where the functions of the Polish case are expressed analytically (by prepositional phrases). It goes without saying that this situation must have a negative impact on the course and character of the acquisition of the Polish case.

Let us first have a brief look at the Polish case system. The Polish nominal paradigm includes seven cases: nominative (Nom), accusative (Acc), genitive (Gen), instrumental (Instr), locative (Loc), dative (Dat) and vocative (Voc). As there is not a single instance of a vocative form in the texts analysed, the vocative will be excluded from our discussion. While the nominative is a non-prepositional case, the locative appears in prepositional phrases only; the other cases occur in both non-prepositional and prepositional contexts. Although every case has a set of functions, both syntactic and semantic, one of the functions (or some subset of them) may usually be considered central for a given case. Syntactically, the Nom is the case of the subject, in both transitive and intransitive clauses; the Acc...

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