Language Shift in the United States

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Thus data significantly point to a language shift from Lithuanian to English among Lithuanian speakers in the U. Since there are only a few studies conducted on Lithuanian language in the U. In this article signs of shift and maintenance among Lithuanian speakers, based on a study conducted in two Chicago-area Lithuanian Saturday schools in Gage Park and Lemont , using self-report questionnaires, are presented with conclusions.

According to the United States Census data, in there were almost , people of Lithuanian descent living in the United States.

Language Death: How do languages die?

Compared to other ethnicities, Lithuanian is a very small ethnic group, forming only 0. In addition, of the , Lithuanian-descent Americans, the census shows only 38, Lithuanian speakers. This indicates that only 5.

Although this number is small, one should keep in mind that the entire population of Lithuania consists of just over 3 million people, according to the Department of Statistics of the Republic of Lithuania. This is almost ten times less than the number of Spanish speakers living in the U. Between and , the number of Lithuanian speakers in the U. Despite the fact that there are more people declaring their Lithuanian ancestry the census indicates , people with Lithuanian descent, the census — , , the number of speakers is diminishing: in there were 55, Lithuanian speakers, while the census counts only 38, of them.

In the census, almost 90 percent of Lithuanian speakers in U. Thus the data points to a significant language shift from Lithuanian to English among Lithuanian speakers in the U. Since there are almost no studies done on Lithuanian language maintenance in the U. Therefore in this paper I will try to present the signs of maintenance or shift in the usage of Lithuanian and English, based on a study conducted in October in two Chicago-area Lithuanian Saturday schools.

Overview of sociolinguistic literature on American Lithuanian. There are only a few studies done on American Lithuanian. However, other sociolinguistic issues were not addressed in his studies. According to her observations, Lithuanian language among American Lithuanians is used only in some registers of speech, mostly in those that are related to home, family or any Lithuanian community issues. Any change in topic during the conversation e. She analyzed two types of registers: written and spoken, for both American Lithuanian and Full Lithuanian.

American Lithuanian data represents second-generation speakers, born in the U. Another observation, related to the lexico-grammatical level, is the loss of the genitive in negation; accusative is used instead.

Due to language contact, there are a number of English borrowings that usually take the Lithuanian suffixes and endings in order to conform to the rules of Lithuanian language morphology. Direct translations of some terms whose equivalents are not known to American Lithuanian speakers , 32—35 , as well as some differences in sentence structure, such as loss of word order variation and a decrease in object fronting construction, were observed , However, the issue of the third generation G3 , and the loss or maintenance of the language in this generation, is not addressed in her dissertation.

A study by Algis Norvilas on language choice among young Lithuanian bilinguals , although it was done within the framework of phenomenological psychology, provides us with useful data on the usage of Lithuanian in the U. In this study, Norvilas interviewed 19 women and 20 men, giving them questionnaires asking why, when, under what circumstances, and what language do they use when speaking to a young Lithuanian who is bilingual. The average age of the respondents was 18—19 years; all of respondents lived in the vicinity of Chicago, Illinois; all of them were G2 speakers, i.

However, the majority of respondents felt more comfortable speaking English. The ability to speak and understand Lithuanian was higher than the ability to read and write. Most of the respondents indicated that they used Lithuanian more with their parents; whereas, with their siblings or friends they tended to use English more Norvilas , Thus, this points very clearly to a shift to English. The results of the research provided not only demonstrated the choice between languages, but also revealed different at63 titudes toward English and Lithuanian as well.

If Lithuanian was associated with positive feelings such as pride, English did not have any sentiments attached to it Norvilas , Lithuanian is preferred: with close friends, with someone who starts speaking Lithuanian first, with someone who is fluent in Lithuanian, with older people out of respect for them , at Saturday school and other Lithuanian organizations or places , when they do not want to be understood by others English speakers.

The study by Norvilas is important because it shows clearly the signs of language shift toward English among G2 Lithuanian bilinguals. This fact indicates that the natural choice between languages is much more in favor of English than Lithuanian. However, this study was conducted in the early s and does not provide data on the third generation G3.

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The case of two Chicago-area Lithuanian Saturday schools methodology and data. This study comparing attitudes toward the Lithuanian language and the choice of Lithuanian and English among teenage American Lithuanian speakers was conducted in two Lithuanian Saturday schools.

Edited by Ronald H. Bayor

One school, the Chicago Lithuanian School, is located in the city of Chicago, and the other, Maironis Lithuanian School, is located in Lemont, one of the southwestern suburbs of Chicago with a high concentration of Lithuanians. One of the reasons why these two schools were 64 chosen was the high number of schoolchildren attending these schools. During the — school year, there were students in the Chicago Lithuanian School and students in the Lemont-based school figures provided by the Lithuanian Educational Council of the USA. Another reason why these two schools were chosen is because of the different immigration patterns they represent.

In the Chicago Lithuanian School, most of the students are the children of recent immigrants third wave from Lithuania, thus, most of them were born in Lithuania, i. Since the purpose of this research was also to compare the results with those of Norvilas , only the students from the highest grades 8, 9, 10 in both schools were interviewed. Self-report questionnaires were given to the students in each school. The questionnaire consists of three parts.

The first part of the questionnaire provides the basic sociological information about the respondent age, sex, place [country] of birth, etc. Several questions on language choice with multiple choice answers are also provided in this part. Students Respondents. The questionnaire was completed by 82 42 female and 40 male students. The average age of the respondents was From those who were born in the U.

Of those who were born in Lithuania, the age at arrival is given in Table 1. Age at arrival. Before 3. Over Table 2: Number of years in the U.

Unravelling language shift and youth perspectives

Number of years. Less than 3 years. The different pattern of generations in the two Chicago area schools is given in Table 3. Chicago Lithuanian School. Maironis Lithuanian School. Both schools. Number of respondents. Total number of respondents. Students had to provide the percentage of their use of Lithuanian and English to and from parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives or friends. The usage of Lithuanian language twhen speaking to parents is given in Table 4. To mother. From mother. To father. From father. To parents.

From parents.