The role of dialect in mother tongue retention of Slovene Canadians: a case study

Nada Šabec 1  and Mihaela Koletnik 1
  • 1 Faculty of Arts, University of Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia
Nada Šabec and Mihaela Koletnik


This article addresses the issue of mother tongue retention in the Slovene Canadian community of Vancouver. A brief social and historical profile of the community is followed by a description of the general linguistic situation, based on the data collected through questionnaires and participant observation. The results show substantial intergenerational variation in terms of the immigrants’ language use and language attitudes and point in the direction of a relatively rapid shift from Slovene to English, but not to the weakening of their sense of ethnic identity.

The focus then shifts to the linguistic aspects of Slovene-English language contact themselves. In addition to interference phenomena in the immigrants’ language such as borrowing from English and Slovene-English code switching, special attention is paid to the presence of dialect or standard features in their mother tongue. Lexis in particular is interesting as it shows traces of other languages. Next, we try to identify the most significant factors which affect the immigrants’ choice between Slovene and English in various contexts as well as their use of either dialect or standard in Slovene.

  • Berry, John W. 1990. Psychology of Acculturation in Nebraska. In Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, vol. 37: 201–235: Cross-Cultural Perspecives, eds. J.J. Bremen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

  • Koletnik, Mihaela. 2001. Mariborski pogovorni jezik. Časopis za zgodovino in narodopisje 37: 245–254.

  • Koletnik, Mihaela. 2004. Dialekte und Mundarten von Apaško polje an der slowenisch-österreichischen Grenze. In Dialektübersetzung und Dialekte in Multimedia, 181–194, ed. I. Helin. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

  • Myhill, John. 2003. The native speaker, identity, and the authenticity hierarchy. Language Sciences 25: 77–97.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Plut, Silva (ed.). 2008. 50 let Slovenskega društva Vancouver/50 years of the Slovenian Society of Vancouver. Vancouver: Slovenian Society of Vancouver.

  • Renan, Ernst. 1990. What is a nation? In Nation and Narration, 8–22, ed. H. Babbla. London: Routledge.

  • Rigler, Jakob. 1963. Južnonotranjski govori. Ljubljana: Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti.

  • Schmid, Monika S. 2001. First language attrition, use and maintenance: The case of German Jews in Anglophone countries. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Smolicz, Jerzy J. 1992. Minority languages as core values of ethnic cultures: A study of maintenance and erosion of Polish, Welsh, and Chinese languages in Australia. In Maintenance and loss of minority languages, 277–305, eds. W. Fase, K. Jaspaert & W. Kroon. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Šabec, Nada. 1995. Half pa pu: The Language of Slovene Americans. Ljubljana, ŠKUC, Studia Humanitatis.

  • Šabec, Nada. 1997. Slovene-English language contact in the USA. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 124: 129–183 (Sociolinguistics of Slovene).

  • Šabec, Nada. 1999. Language change in a contact situation: the case of Slovene in North America. Slovenski jezik-Slovene linguistic studies 2: 33–46.

  • Šabec, Nada. 2011. Slovene-English language contact: teaching and learning Slovene as a mother tongue in the U.S.A. and Canada. In Slovenski jezik v stiku: sodobne usmeritve večjezičnega in manjšinskega izobraževanja (Uporabno jezikoslovje), 190–203, eds. S. Novak-Lukanovič & V. Mikolič. Ljubljana, Društvo za uporabno jezikoslovje.

  • de Vries, John. 1990. Language and ethnicity: Canadian aspects. In Race and ethnic relations in Canada, 231–250, ed. P.S. Li. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

  • Valh Lopert, Alenka & Mihaela Koletnik. 2012. Expressing local identity through radio discourse. Dialectologia et geolinguistica 20: 26–36.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues

Dialectologia et Geolinguistica publishes contributions on the variation of languages world-wide, systematic and inherent, diachronic and synchronic, regional and social, based on either oral or written data. It is open to all theoretical and methodological approaches. The journal is the official journal of the International Society for Dialectology and Geolinguistics (ISDG/SIDG).