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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 2 Inflection

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Acquisition of the Polish inflectional system causes considerable difficulties for the children of Polish immigrants in Sweden. A particularly frequent phenomenon is the morphological levelling of the stem, especially the tendency to omit alternations in both nominal (e.g. w lasie frequently instead of w lesie ‘in the woods’) and verbal stems (e.g. możem instead of mogę ‘I can’, siedziom instead of siedzą ‘they are sitting’ in idiolect 75.12). Another, quite frequent type of error can be observed in the choice between isofunctional inflectional suffixes. However, cases like these, i.e. ones related to the forms of expression of grammatical categories only, will not be discussed at length here. Instead, the following sections will focus on the functional analysis of phenomena associated with the acquisition of different grammatical categories by bilingual children. Particularly interesting phenomena of this type occur in the grammatical categories whose structures are different in the two languages and in those which are present in only one of them.

2.1.Gender111

Although the grammatical category of gender is present in both Polish and Swedish, it has a different structure in each of the languages.

The gender system of Swedish has only two classes: utrum (common), including almost all animate nouns and a large number of inanimate ones, and neutrum (neuter), almost exclusively including inanimate nouns and only a few animate ones (e.g. barn ‘child’, djur ‘animal’). The criterion for distinguishing the two classes is article use.112 There is no gender (or number) agreement...

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