stan-sandy_anonby at sil.org
Mon Nov 1 00:38:28 UTC 2004
I like your broad sweeps about the areas of the world where monolingualism are the norm, "Spanish and English America, in Russia, Japan, the UK and perhaps France, and among Mandarin Chinese speakers of China"(and remember Brazil).
I'm wondering about your statement that immigrants in the past shifted more quickly than immigrants today. I don't have any stats about this, but would welcome any. I would've thought the opposite would be true, that language shift progressed more slowly in the past. I would've thought immigrants would've had fewer opportunities to speak the dominant language, and languages like English weren't as attractive then.
(By the way, my grandparents were Norwegian)
On Thu, 28 Oct 2004 08:13:18 +0200
Trond Trosterud <trond.trosterud at hum.uit.no> wrote:
> Increased monolingualism comes as a result of minority languages becoming smaller due to assimilation in modernising nation-states. This certainly takes place, e.g. here in Norway during the last century, but numerically the assimilated minorities are not that large. In Norway, it affected perhaps 2-3 % of the population. Indigenous languages represent even smaller percentages of the population, so even though many languages disappear, only a small portion of the population becomes monolingual. Larger minorities have fared better, and stayed bilingual.
> There is a growth of EFL/ESL, as has already been stated. Shift to English, on the other hand, only takes place as a result of colonisation, and that historical phase seems to be over (at least for the moment). Thus, English will be able to assimilate speakers only in Britain's former colonies. The result of the EFL/ESL rise will be increased bi- and trilingualism (coming on top of local bilingualism), leaving monolingualism an increasingly rare phenomenon.
> As we migrate and travel more than in earlier centuries, bilingualism will have to increase. In earlier centuries, migration (e.g. from Europe to America) happened once in a lifetime, and resulted in change of language and assimilation. Today, emigrants are more in touch with their former country, and the result will be at least a prolonged bilingualism, spanning over more generations.
> As for stable bilingualism: In border regions, I see stable bilingual situations over centuries and millennia, as e.g. between Finnish and Swedish in Finland and Sweden (there are assimilation processes, but a large number of speakers are and have always been bilingual. Also in Africa bilingualism is the norm, and it seems it has deep historical roots. With different languages being used for different domains, there is no reason why bilingualism cannot be stable.
> The discussion is a bit hampered by the unclear concept 'bilingualism'. When is a person bilingual? Here in Norway, I would not be counted as a bilingual (Norwegian-English), since English is a foreign language to me, but I would have been counted as bilingual if I moved to Scotland (I guess).
> If we instead have a liberal definition of bilingualism, as a person being able to use more than one language for communicative purposes, then widespread monolingualism is probably found only in Spanish and English America, in Russia, Japan, the UK and perhaps France, and among Mandarin Chinese speakers of China (and also in these countries, the bilingual minorities are substantial) . In the rest of the world, my guess is that bi- and trilingualism is dominating.
> Trond Trosterud
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