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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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The present book reports on the results of studies on the language of children in the Polish diaspora in Sweden, conducted under the author’s supervision at the University of Gothenburg between 1989 and 1992. The studies focused on the language of the second generation of Polish emigrants and involved a relatively large group of subjects: 130 children between 5 and 16 years of age, born in Sweden or born in Poland and having lived in Sweden for at least five years. Based on the results of questionnaires and interviews (with children and their parents), an investigation into the sociolinguistic profile of the Polish diaspora in Sweden was carried out and an extensive body of linguistic material was collected, comprising recordings of speech produced freely by children. A selected group of subjects was also tested for their grammatical and lexical competence.

The sociological findings and the linguistic material collected have revealed an interesting picture of the sociological factors influencing the maintenance of the heritage language and culture by the second generation of emigrant Poles. Apart from the obvious factors, such as the intensity of contact with Polish friends and peers in Sweden, the frequency of visits to the parents’ country of origin and visits by family/friends from Poland, what turns out to play an important role is the parents’ attitude to their heritage language and culture. Analysis of the linguistic behaviour of the second generation of Poles in Sweden confirms the well-known fact that the language of the country...

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