Linguistics colloquium: Carmit Altman

02/01/2018 - 14:10 - 15:30

(Note: The talk will start at 14:15, not at 14:00 as originally published)


Carmit Altman, Bar Ilan University

Topic: Family Language Policy, Reported Language Use and Measured Proficiency

Abstract: Language maintenance and language shift in Russian-Hebrew bilinguals in Israel are governed by multiple variables. Specifically, we are interested in the relationship between Family Language Policy (FLP) and reported language proficiency and language preferences as well as measured language use in the two languages of preschool children.

By means of Glaser’s (1998) “Grounded Theory,” the content of sociolinguistic interviews with 65 parents allowed us to classify families as strict-pro-Russian, mild-pro-Russian and pro-Bilingual language policies. Preschool children from these families were responded to questions about language use, language choice, proficiency in Russian and Hebrew and codeswitching on 10-point graphic rating scale and performed three linguistic tasks in both languages: Noun-Verb picture naming, non-word repetition and complex syntax in sentence repetition.

Fifty percent of the families held a mild pro-Russian FLP, while the other 50% were divided evenly between strict pro-Russian (25%) and pro-bilingualism (25%) FLP. Findings for language use and self-rated proficiency showed varying degrees of reported Russian language maintenance depending on the FLP applied in the home. Yet, performance on complex syntax was better in Hebrew than Russian, and children reported more codeswitching into L2/Hebrew than into their home language. These findings regarding Hebrew are interpreted as evidence for language shift and may be attributed to greater influence of peers and siblings than parents. Implications for English-Hebrew bilinguals which differ demographically and ethnolinguistically as well as in terms of their motivation for immigration, their integration into Israeli society and the status of their heritage language status in Israel will be discussed.


Building 504, room 7

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