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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Garcia Otheguy, Ofelia / Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

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Volume 2016, Issue 238


Transnationalism and language maintenance: Czech and Slovak as heritage languages in the Southeastern United States

Marta McCabe
Published Online: 2016-02-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2015-0050


This qualitative study examines heritage language maintenance goals, motivation, and strategies in eleven Czech and Slovak immigrant families in the Southeastern United States. The goals of this article are threefold. First, this article outlines the changes in Czech and Slovak immigration patterns over time, documenting that while Czech immigrants used to settle mainly in Texas and the Midwest in the past, they generally opt for the East and West Coast today. Second, this article describes language practices of current Czech and Slovak immigrants in the Southeast and finds that the most successful factors of heritage language (HL) retention include: (a) expectations that children will need the language in the future; (b) consistent HL use by both parents; (c) annual lengthy trips overseas; and (d) parental ability to use additional strategies, such as involving grandparents or employing Slavic au pairs. Third, this article compares today’s HL maintenance with the classical period of immigration. In the past, Czech and Slovak children in the United States learned and used their native languages within ethnic communities. Today, the necessity to learn and use Czech or Slovak in the context of the United States has largely disappeared. Instead, it is the transnational context that is vital for HL retention.

Keywords: heritage language maintenance; Czech; Slovak; immigration patterns; transnationalism


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-02-09

Published in Print: 2016-03-01

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2016, Issue 238, Pages 169–191, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2015-0050.

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