Same Mother Tongue - Different Origins : Implications for Language Maintenance and Shift among Hungarian Immigrants and their Children in Sweden

University dissertation from Stockholm : Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University

Abstract: This study investigates intergenerational language transmission amongst Hungarian immigrants, using in-depth interviews and participant observation as the main methods. The analysis examines the experiences of parents and their school-aged children in 61 families living in Sweden´s two main cities, Stockholm and Göteborg.The sample families were separated into four groups, based on two pre-contact factors, namely (1) the parents´ linguistic environment and (2) their social identity prior to migration. Three of the four groups turned out to be comparable in size and serve as the focus groups of the study. Group 1 comprises families in which one or both parents are former majority members from monolingual parts of Hungary. Group 2 comprises families in which one or both parents are former majority members from Hungary, but in contrast, these parents grew up in bilingual areas, being exposed to other languages in their childhood settings. Group 3 comprises families in which often both parents grew up as members of a vital ethnic minority in bilingual or multilingual settings in Transylvania (Romania).It was hypothesised that the parents´ childhood experiences would have an effect on their ways of raising children in a migrant situation, which, in turn, will affect children´s bilingualism as well as the group´s maintenance chances. The results of the statistical analysis confirm the hypothesis and show significant differences between the focus groups in a number of factors, e.g. marriage pattern, religious engagement, cultural orientation, children’s opportunities to meet other group members, and language awareness. Most importantly, the investigation revealed broad variation in language use norms among the sample families, especially for family and group internal communication. This, together with the poor demographic conditions of the group, seriously threatens group cohesion. The prospects for Hungarian language maintenance in Sweden are therefore seen as limited.

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