The transience of American Swedish

Detta är en avhandling från Lund University Press

Sammanfattning: This thesis concerns two languages in contact: English and Swedish. It is based on interviews with Swedes who came to North America with the last major wave of emigration. The bilingual phenomena that appear in their speech, ranging from codeswitching to morphological, structural and semantic transfer, are considered as forming a continuum of language alternation. The study explores the opposing forces of convergence and divergence. Divergence is another term for the gradual growing apart of Standard and American Swedish, whereas convergence characterizes the relation between American Swedish and English. The two forces operate on both grammar and lexicon. Parallel ways of adopting English influences are found in the two varieties of Swedish. For example, transferred open-class items tend to be assigned to the same ?unmarked? categories as regards the gender and plural of nouns and the conjugation of verbs. Language alternation affects all aspects of language, including the closed word-class items which are usually alleged to remain unchanged in the first language despite strong second-language influences. Against that view, this study shows that even categories like numerals can become automatic in the second language. This indicates a high degree of acculturation, as does the frequent use in Swedish speech of English pragmatic markers. These and other processes described in the study suggest various degrees of first language attrition and language death. Without denying the existence of individual cases of strong language maintenance, the overall evidence points to the transience of American Swedish.

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