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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 6 Genitive


While discussing the problems related to the acquisition of the dative, we noted one of the consequences of the lack of (complete) acquisition of this case, namely: a change in the argument structure of the verbs governing the dative in Polish. Not having (fully) acquired the dative-determination rules makes the bilingual child face the problem of which linguistic resources to use in order to express the functions typical of this case in the target language (in parents’ language). The solution to this problem comes with the appearance of linguistic innovations in the child’s language, consisting either in the use of non-standard means drawn from the system-internal mechanisms of L1 (here: Polish) or in the use of resources from the interfering language L2 (here: Swedish), i.e. resorting to linguistic calques.

We shall now discuss the problems faced by a bilingual child in the acquisition of the rules of use for one of the strong cases, namely: the genitive, a case that most of the subjects have acquired better than the dative or locative. The linguistic material clearly shows that the problem of identifying the genitive-determination rules boils down to the gradual acquisition of the different functions of the case. The following functions of the genitive will be considered: (1) adverbal genitive (implied by the verb), (2) post-prepositional genitive, (3) post-quantifier genitive, (4) temporal genitive, (5) genitive after negation, (6) adnominal genitive.

6.1.Adverbal genitive

We shall first discuss the verb-governed genitive. There are several verbs requiring...

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