Language shift and language maintenance among Danish immigrants in the U.S.A.: A (not so) clear picture

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleCommunication

  • Karoline Kühl
The Danish immigrants to North America around the last turn of the century are reported to have given up their language quickly, often already in the 1st foreign-born generation, and to have assimilated rapidly into the American society. However, a closer look at individual speakers provides a much more nuanced picture of the processes of language shift and assimilation, including accounts of refusing to learn English for several years and intense engagement in Danish-American associations with the aim of promoting Danish culture and language.
In this paper, I focus on the motivations for language shift and language maintenance by zooming in on a smaller subset of 56 Danish Americans and their reported motivation for migration, the way they acquired English and their reported attitudes towards acquiring English, their travels to or visits from Denmark, their reported participation in American Danish communities of practice, their attitudes towards Denmark and Danish, and, finally, the language use in the family and intergenerational language transfer. These factors shall then be linked to the speakers’ linguistic proficiency, in particular the amount of English influence in their Danish. The analysis will do justice to the microprocesses of language shift that are in no way as unilateral as the general picture suggests.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Bridge: Journal of the Danish American Heritage Society
Publication statusSubmitted - Jan 2019

ID: 212560664