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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 4 Sociolinguistic profile of the group

Extract

4.1.General remarks

The key sociolinguistic questions that the present study seeks to address pertain to the relationship between the child’s level of proficiency in Polish and such factors as: parents’ native language(s) (Polish vs. mixed couples); parents’ education level; time spent (by parents) in Sweden; the child’s birthplace (Poland vs. Sweden, or perhaps another country); language used for communication within the family (with parents and siblings); language used to communicate with peers; the child’s contact with Poland and with Polish books. Another interesting problem is to ascertain the child’s subjective assessment of the difficulty of each language (Polish and Swedish). An attempt was also made to elicit information on the children’s sense of national identity and its dependence on the sociological factors listed above.

Before delineating the sociological profile of the subjects, two important points must be made regarding the representativeness of the study group for the whole community of Polish immigrants in Sweden at the turn of the 1980s.

The first concerns the limitations of the study group, which obviously warp the sociolinguistic picture of the Polish children in Sweden. Only those children were included in the study who manifested at least a slight degree of active knowledge of Polish, i.e. those who, apart from the ability to understand Polish, attempted to speak the language as well. A considerable part (though the exact number has not been established) of the children of Polish immigrants in Sweden either had never been able to...

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