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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 3 Dative – a superfluous case?

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The dative is a problematic case. The least frequently occurring case in Polish, in colloquial speech – especially in some of the Polish dialects – it is in certain contexts displaced by the prepositional phrase dla ‘for’ + Dat. The least frequent case in the idiolects of children in the Polish diaspora in Sweden183, the dative is, at least according to some studies, acquired very early by the child (see chapter 7; for Russian, also see Gagarina & Voeikova 2009).

In most of the idiolects, the dative does not occur at all or is only represented by enclitic forms of personal pronouns (most frequently by the enclitic mi ‘[to] me,’ mu ‘[to] him,’ im ‘[to] them,’ and jej ‘[to] her), while the dative of nouns is realised by a prepositional phrase or by one of the strong cases: accusative or genitive. Interference from the caseless Swedish language is, naturally, a decisive factor here. It must be emphasised, though, that there are two types of mechanisms used to express the function of the Polish dative in the idiolects studied: a) syntactic calques of semantically equivalent Swedish structures; b) intra-systemic therapeutic mechanisms determined by the functional structure (the relations of functional markedness) of the Polish category of case.

We will begin with an overview of the mechanisms of the first type. One of the principal functions of the Polish dative is to express an indirect object. For verbs of giving, the Polish syntactic schema:

           NPNom184...

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