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Language Maintenance – Language Attrition

The Case of Polish Children in Sweden


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 3 A study on the language of Polish immigrants’ children in Sweden (1989-1992)


Between 1989 and 1992, I was embarked, with a group of colleagues, on a research project concerning the acquisition of Polish by children of Polish immigrants in Sweden (POLSVE project).41 The study group42 comprised 133 children, aged 5–15, who had lived in Sweden for at least 5 years and at least one of whose parents came from Poland, including both children born in Sweden and those born in Poland.43

The general aim of the study was to investigate the sociolinguistic aspects of the acquisition and use of the Polish language by Polish immigrants’ children in Sweden. The principal goal of the project, however, was to study the children’s language acquisition mechanisms in a bilingual setting. Initiated in 1989, the first phase of the project (the academic year of 1989/1990) consisted in gathering a possibly vast body of linguistic material (obtained from at least 100 children) and sociolinguistic data concerning the study group. The core part of the research material comprised: a) results of a sociolinguistic survey, based on interviews with the children (or with their parents, in the case of the younger children); b) recordings of the children’s utterances (mostly texts of 1,700–3,000 words), obligatorily including two texts based on the same picture story, which the child was supposed to recount, and one longer free utterance on any topic. Moreover, a group of 15 children was selected in order to conduct a complementary study whose aim was to investigate the dynamics of the...

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