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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 Syntax


The Polish idiolects studied also manifest syntactic interference from Swedish. Two main types of syntactic interference can be distinguished:

1.Direct influence of Swedish on the syntax of the Polish idiolects, primarily the tendency to apply Swedish word-order rules to the Polish sentence and noun phrase. Two other tendencies can also be observed here: the avoidance of double negation and the emergence of a common, uninflected relative pronoun used regardless of the antecedent, i.e. the relative co, corresponding to the Swedish som.

2.Indirect impact of the Swedish syntax, resulting in the general instability of the Polish syntactic system among the children of the Polish diaspora.

3.1.Sentence word order

In some of the Polish idiolects, sentence word order is more or less clearly affected by the Swedish syntax. Swedish is a language with a fixed word order, while Polish is characterized by a free word order. In Swedish, the verb in the main clause obligatorily comes as second. The first slot may be taken by the subject or other linguistic material (such as adverbal expressions). As in German, adverbs occur at the end of the clause (which is practically impossible in Polish). The phenomenon can be illustrated with the following examples:

(1)      Ja lubie języki najbardziej (73.02)

           Jag tycker om språk allra bäst ‘I like languages the most’

  instead of: Najbardziej lubię języki ‘The most I like languages’

(2)      Ja jestem naprawd...

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