Around the world, COVID-19 lockdowns have caused abrupt shifts in the amount of time spent at home versus out of the home for work, school, and recreation. As a result, many individuals have experienced a disruption in the frequency and type of their interactions. Given the importance of intergenerational transmission and intergenerational interaction for promoting language maintenance, and the importance of peer-to-peer interaction for promoting language shift, we ask how these abrupt changes necessitated by social distancing will affect language use and attitudes, specifically short- and long-term language maintenance or shift involving heritage languages. We examine principles of language maintenance and shift in the context of the COVID-19 lockdown for university students, people still involved in critical acts of identity creation. Here we describe a survey designed to learn how the lockdown is affecting young people’s language ecologies and attitudes. Using both quantitative and qualitative interpretive methods, we document the experiences of over 400 students, focusing on changes in their perceptions of their language use and the causes of these changes.
Funding source: SSHRC Insight Grant http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000155,"Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Award Identifier / Grant number: 425-2016-1430
The authors would like to acknowledge our participants for sharing their responses with us; Betsy Sneller, the participants in the 2021 LSA “Workshop on COVID-era Sociolinguistics”, and Nathan Sanders for comments on earlier versions of this paper; and the Heritage Language Variation and Change research assistants at the University of Toronto for recruiting participants. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the work of University of Rochester student and research assistant Erin Toohey.
Research funding: This project was partially funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant (425-2016-1430) awarded to Naomi Nagy.
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