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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Reversing Language Shift in the Immigrant Family: a case-study of a Russian-speaking community in Israel Add Dissertation
Author: Shulamit Kopeliovich Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Bar-Ilan University, Language and Policy Center
Completed in: 2006
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Hebrew
Director(s): Muhammad Amara
Bernard Spolsky

Abstract: The cross-disciplinary thesis focuses on the non-linear dynamic interaction
of social and linguistic factors influencing the process of
intergenerational transmission of a heritage language in the immigrant
family. The theoretical framework incorporates Reversing Language Shift
theory (Fishman, 1991, 2001) adjusted to the family level with the help of
the following social theories: Community of Practice (Wenger, 1998),
Peer-Group Socialization (Harris, 1995) and Family Invisible Work (Okita,
2002). Structural aspects of Reversing Language Shift in the family are
analyzed within Contact Linguistic theory (Myers-Scotton, 2002).

The dissertation presents an ethnographic longitudinal study of a single
Russian-speaking community (27 big families, 72 children) and in-depth
tape-recorded interviews with parents and their seven children in a
selected family.

Chapter 3 discusses social aspects of intergenerational language
transmission and elaborates Community of Practice framework: children’s and
adults’ Communities of Practice dynamically merge and split in diverse
domains of their practices. Linguistic reflexes of this process can be
traced at diverse structural levels and in codeswitching patterns in the
speech of adults and children. Whereas traditional Reversing Language Shift
research perceives two distinct languages vying for status, the
dissertation argues for the existing of four distinctly identifiable
contact varieties combining Russian and Hebrew abstract and surface
elements in diverse ways and in different proportions.

Chapter 4 presents a qualitative linguistic analysis of the
Hebrew-influenced variety of Russian spoken by second-generation speakers
based on the Contact Linguistic framework by Myers-Scotton (2002). The
study proposes a typology of contact-induced changes commonly observed in
their speech and investigation of the basic linguistic mechanisms
underlying these changes.

Chapter 5 reports on the results of the interviews in Russian and Hebrew
(2-3 hours) with seven siblings in the K. family:
1) detailed analysis of their language attitudes and identification
2) individual linguistic profiles recording distribution of Hebrew-induced
changes in 1000-word excerpts from their interviews in Russian.
It describes the immigrant children’s dramatic dialogue with their family
cultural and linguistic heritage, diachronic changes in attitudes ranging
from total rejection of Russian to enthusiastic linguistic rebirth, and
particularly vivid bilingual practices. The study reveals the major
differences between the siblings showing in rare detail the effects of age,
age at immigration, personality, external experience, peer pressure and
other factors on attitudes to Russian and Hebrew and on the linguistic
properties of their speech in Russian.

Chapter 6 analyses family language management in the K. family. The
parents’ perspective on this process gives insight into the time-consuming
and emotionally demanding task of heritage language maintenance. The
different strategies adopted by each parent and the different results
achieved suggest important lessons for immigrant parents.

Chapter 7 finally ties up the various studies into a single analysis of the
constructive interaction among various social, psychological, demographic
and linguistic factors, thus avoiding the trap of claiming crude causality.
Instead, a model of a continuum of proficiency levels in second-generation
speakers of Russian as a heritage language is proposed.

Chapter 8 discusses multi-fold relations between language policies at the
family level and at the national one.