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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 7 Some conclusions

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The analysis of the errors in the use of case in the idiolects of the Polish diaspora in Sweden casts new light on a number of problems connected with the structure of this morphological category and on certain aspects of language acquisition. The most important conclusion that can be drawn from the analysis of the phenomena discussed in this chapter concerns the hierarchical structure of the category of case. A clear difference can be observed between the unmarked, neutral case: the nominative and the strong dependent cases: the accusative and the genitive, on the one hand, and the weak dependent cases: the instrumental and, particularly, the locative and the dative, on the other. The unique status of the nominative in the case system is manifested through several tendencies observed in the linguistic material:

a.In the idiolects with a seriously disrupted case system, the nominative form shows a clear tendency to function as the only realisation of the lexeme (i.e. it constitutes a neutral, caseless form);

b.The nominative is (virtually) never replaced with dependent cases, even in the idiolects with an incompletely acquired category of case;

c.The nominative form quite frequently occurs in place of different dependent cases.

The status of the nominative as an unmarked, most neutral element in the case system is obviously by no means unique to the diaspora idiolects. This fact is commonly attested in both philo- and ontogenetic data concerning the category of case. For example, it is...

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