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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 4 Vocabulary


The influence of Swedish on the vocabulary of the Polish children in Sweden is very common. The children’s Polish lexical repertoire is generally very poor, often limited to everyday vocabulary and the semantic fields associated with family life (though there are profound differences in the lexical repertoire among the children). Swedish terminology connected with school clearly dominates in all of the subjects (which is hardly surprising), generally unassimilated to the Polish morphology and with perfect Swedish pronunciation.

What is striking is that examples of morphological adaptation of Swedish vocabulary are rather infrequent. Nouns ending in a consonant are most susceptible to inflectional adaptation, in which case they are assigned to the masculine gender (based on the characteristic ending of Polish masculine nouns); morphological assimilation is accompanied by adaptation to the Polish phonological system. Common examples include: kompis ‘friend’ [Pol. kolega, przyjaciel] and dator ‘computer’ [Pol. komputer] (e.g. pisze na datorzeLoc ‘he types on the computer’ 75.07) with Polish nominal inflection, leksa (e.g. leksyAccPl robimy razem [lexa ‘homework’, Pol. zadanie domowe] ‘we do our homework together’ (78.09), do forraduGen [förråd ‘warehouse’, Pol. magazyn] ‘to the warehouse’ (74.03), policja używa batonówGenPl [batong ‘truncheon’, Pol. pałka policyjna] ‘the police use truncheons’ (75.08), do takiego tregorduGen [trägård ‘orchard’, Pol. sad] ‘to such an orchard’, dużo fruktówGenPl [frukt ‘fruit’, Pol. owoc] ‘plenty of fruit’, w permieLoc [perm ‘folder’, Pol. skoroszyt] ‘in a folder’ (79.03). Other, less frequent borrowings of a similar type are used...

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