New study--Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California (fwd)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Sep 20 12:57:13 UTC 2006

Forwarded from: UC Linguistic Minority Research Institute

Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California

Ruben Rumbaut, Frank Bean, Douglas Massey

Newly available data from two surveys-the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility
in Metropolitan Los Angeles survey, and the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal
Study in San Diego-are used to test the assertion that Spanish is unlikely to go the
way of other immigrant languages in the United States and succumb to
English-language dominance across the generations. Southern California offers an
ideal critical test of this hypothesis because it is the country's largest
Spanish-speaking region and houses its largest concentration of immigrants.
Linguistic survival is defined in two ways: a preference for speaking a mother
tongue within the household and the ability to speak that language very well.
Survival curves are computed in half-generation increments, and life table methods
are applied to derive linguistic life expectancies-the average number of generations
a mother tongue can be expected to survive in the United States after the arrival of
an immigrant. Although the life expectancy of Spanish is found to be greater among
Mexicans in Southern California compared to other groups, its ultimate demise
nonetheless seems assured by the third generation. English has never been seriously
threatened as the dominant language of the United States, and it is not threatened
today-not even in Southern California. What is endangered instead is the
survivability of the non-English languages that immigrants bring with them to the
United States.

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