Trond Trosterud trond.trosterud at
Mon Nov 1 08:22:57 UTC 2004

1.11.2004 kello 01:38, Stan-Sandy Anonby kirjoitti:

> 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.

My impression is from personal experience, seeing (well, hearing about)
my grandparents' and grand-grandparents' sisters and brothers moving to
USA, for never coming back, the only contact being the "America
letters", that came from the ones that left, but not from their
children. As a linguist I have read interviews with Turkish and
Pakistan immigrants to Norway, who visit their homes, and keep long
summer vacations there, not every summer, but perhaps every second and
third summer. A similar difference can be seen in Finnish emigration
across the Baltic Sea, to Sweden, in the 17th century (no holiday
travels home :-) compared to the one in the 1960-ies and 1970-ies
(regular trips). The combination of public holidays, cheap travel and
now also satellite TV has made this possible. Unfortunately, I don't
have statistics, but I am sure some sociologists and migration
researchers do. I agree with you that lg shift has to do with whether
there are opportunities to speak L2 (the dominant lg), but that
opportunity was present in earlier centuries also (except where the
immigrants constituted isolated communities (self-sustainable farms far
away from others, as the 16th and 17th c. Finnish migration wave to
Western Sweden / Eastern Norway, where the last Finnish speaker died as
late as in 1980). In other emigrant waves I know of, e.g. the one to
the US, most immigrants came to places where they were in interaction
with other ethnic groups, and the motivation for learning the dominant
L2 was as large as today.

In the last sentence of your posting you have an important remark,
"languages like English weren't as attractive then". If you imply that
this should be a factor promoting faster lg shift today, I disagree. I
think this recent status of English is irrelevant for bilingualism and
language shift (except for the "broad" bilingualism, cf. below). When
your grandparents arrived in the US, the global status of English was
not as strong as today (with German dominating in European science, no
wide-spread school-induced language knowledge, and not our
3-hours-a-day of English television. But language choice is dependent
upon your local need. The language of the playground, the school, the
workplace, these are the important factors, not global status.

> Stan
> (By the way, my grandparents were Norwegian)




To the other thread, on more or less real bilingualism, or

I will hereby change my position somewhat: Yes, i admit that there is a
way of establishing a "narrow" concept of bilingualism, in the
following way: If you live, in addition to your L1-speaking community,
in a community where you speak L2 and learn it well before the end of
puberty, then you know the basic grammar in a way such that you are
able to say that "this is how we (do not) say it". In this sense, I am
a monolingual, in Norwegian  (and yes, I feel the difference, every
day), and not a bilingual, whereas my children are bilingual. Then
there is the broader, functional way of seeing it (you are bilingual in
L1 and L2 if you may use L2), in which sense I am trilingual (in
English at work and Finnish at home).

General linguists will typically be interested in the narrow type (I am
useless as an informant in languages other than Norwegian), whereas
sociolinguists will be interested  (also) in the second type (for
studies of lg maintenance, lg shift and lg death, for example, it will
be of interest to know whether I am capable of bringing up my children
in Finnish or not)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list