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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

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Volume 2016, Issue 242


Language maintenance and shift under pressure: Three generations of the Turkish immigrant community in the Netherlands

Yeşim Sevinç
  • Corresponding author
  • University of Oslo, Center for Multilingualism in Society Across the Lifespan (MultiLing), Oslo, Norway
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Published Online: 2016-10-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2016-0034


Drawing on questionnaire and interview data, this study explores the process of language maintenance and shift across three generations of Turkish immigrants in the Netherlands. It compares three generations of Turkish-Dutch bilinguals by examining age and place of language learning, self-rated language proficiency, and language choices in six domains (home, school, work, friends, media and leisure time activities, and cognitive activities). Furthermore, it investigates bilinguals’ experiences, motivations for learning languages and attitudes towards bilingualism. Findings suggest that following the typical pattern of language shift described by Mario Saltarelli and Susan Gonzo in 1977, language history, self-rated language proficiency and current language practices of third-generation children differ from those of first- and second-generation bilinguals. Consequently, possible language shift among third-generation bilinguals causes socioemotional pressure about maintaining the Turkish language, triggering intergenerational tensions in Turkish immigrant families. At the same time, the perceived need to shift to Dutch for social and economic reasons causes immigrant children to experience tensions and ambiguities in the linguistic connections between the family and other social domains (e. g. school, friendship). The findings evidence that the Turkish immigrant community in the Netherlands may no longer be as linguistically homogeneous as once observed. The dissolution of homogeneity can be a sign of social change in which maintaining the Turkish language has become a challenge, whereas speaking Dutch is a necessity of life in the Netherlands.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: language shift; three generations; Turkish immigrant community in the Netherlands; language tension; socioemotional pressure


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-10-04

Published in Print: 2016-11-01

This study was financially supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence funding scheme, project number 223265.

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2016, Issue 242, Pages 81–117, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2016-0034.

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