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Bilingualism: Culture and Language Change

  • Cultures and languages do not exist in isolation, nor are they unchanging. Cultures and languages are constantly in flux, sometimes due to internal forces, i.e. conflicts of interest among groups, and sometimes from contact with other languages (Foley 2001: 381).


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No society is homogeneous

  • Internal divisions

  • Different beliefs and practices

  • Hierarchy of languages


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Language contact:

  • Language transformation

  • Changes in attitudes and practices

  • Adjusting to other languages

  • Overtime: language shifts

  • Reasons: historical, economic and political

  • Higher status versus lower status


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Power struggles and language death

  • Equally in multicultural as well as in small-scale societies (Australia versus Yimas village)

  • Example one: Hungarian language in Austria

    ---positive versus negative social meanings

    ---peasant life versus modern life


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Strategies utilized by Bilinguals

  • Code switching and code mixing

  • Code switching:When bilinguals integrate linguistic resources from two languages within the same discourse segment, this strategy has a number of linguistic and interactional functions


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Code Switching: linguistic and interactional functions

  • to express a more precise meaning

    ---i.e.Mohawk

    “Then I woke up Sunday Morning.”

    “She turned sixty-five in July.”

  • to compensate for memory lapses

    Necesito un string para la kite

    I need a string for the kite


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Code Switching: linguistic and interactional functions, 2

  • As an attention-getting device

    Now let me do it. Put your feet down. Mira

  • To express social value

    Society hii aisii hai

    “The society is like that.”


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Code Mixing

  • Is a linguistic process that incorporates material from a second language in a base language: morphological markers.

    To watch: Watchando


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Language Death

  • Typically based on economic and political imperatives

  • Historical reasons: overwhelming forces

  • Central american Case: colonialism

  • Assimilative policies: North america and Australia


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Language death among the Arapaho

  • English associated with power

  • Bilingualism becomes an asset

  • Bilingualism gives way to monolingualism

  • Indigenous language loses prestige


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Other reasons for language death

  • Being outnumbered: Normandy, Hungarian speakers of Austria

  • Negative attitudes towards local languages

    Tiwa opposite example

  • Immigration

  • Cultural imperialism; mass media, Hollywood


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Discussion Question

  • What do you think is the future of most languages in the world? What can we do to prevent the death of these languages.


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