Dissertation: Issues in Family Language Planning and Transmission

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue May 6 16:26:52 UTC 2008

Issues in Family Language Planning and Transmission

Institution: University of Melbourne
Program: Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Brigitte Elisabeth Lambert

Dissertation Title: Issues in Family Language Planning and Transmission

Dissertation Director:
Michael Clyne

Dissertation Abstract:

This study is concerned with intergenerational language transmission. It
highlights the role of parents as managers of the family's linguistic
resources and explores the social influences and subjective sensitivities
that lead to their respective transmission decisions. The example language
is German, precisely because successive census analyses in Australia have
charted a marked decline in the numbers of German speakers in this country,
indicating that motivation for the transmission of German has waned. Of
particular interest, therefore, are the situations in which it is presently
being transmitted.

The study is based on recorded interviews detailing the transmission
history of twenty families in which German is, was, or could have been the
targeted transmission language. In the course of the data analysis, a model
was developed, depicting the decision process in relation to the planning
and implementation stages of the transmission undertaking. This framework
also served to link the social, linguistic and attitudinal factors
operating in the parents' life experience to the transmission method and
linguistic outcomes for the children.

The findings show firstly that the transmission decision is negotiated
around the needs, interests and desires of the parents. Secondly, the
decisions and the transmission process are prompted and sustained by
extrinsic and intrinsic orientations, covering child-focussed, mutually
oriented and parent-centred motives. Within these interest areas, the
advantages of bilingualism, family connectedness and the maintenance of
personal identity are of central importance. Furthermore, the transmission
method reflects the parents' expectations relative to their express
transmission motives, which determine the quality of input and, in turn,
the quality of transmission outcomes. In this regard, the parents'
linguistic experiences, educational background and the extent of
preparation for the transmission task emerge as prominent factors.


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