DISSERTATION DEFENSE ANNOUNCEMENT Ed.D. Program: Alice Debowski “‘We’re More Than Just Kielbasa and Pierogi’: Generational Language Shift and/or Maintenance in Children of Polish Immigrants”
Through a phenomenological study, and the use of life histories this study looked at generational language shift (and/or maintenance) amongst various age cohorts of American born children of Polish immigrants, in the greater New York City metropolitan area. This study aimed to understand individuals’ experiences within an ethnolinguistic minority group that is part of the racial majority in the United States. This is important because most of the literature focuses on immigrants themselves but does not speak enough to the next generation. Moreover, the research focuses on immigrants from countries throughout Central and South America, and Asia. This study aimed to answer: What is the experience of generational language shift for children of Polish immigrants? What is the experience of generational language maintenance? How are these experiences different or the same across different generations? This qualitative research was conducted on 13 participants through semi-structured interviews and these participants were separated into three age cohorts. The interviews were initially in vivo coded, then descriptive and value coding was used to synthesize the data and create themes. These were categorized into three categories: self, family, and community (similar to the model of Personal Dimensions of Identity). It was found that participants were able to maintain varying levels of Polish language fluency through similar factors. For the middle and young cohorts, formal Polish school on the weekends or after school were important. For all age cohorts, the almost exclusive use of Polish language at home during their formative years was key. For all participants, dynamic shifts in language use have occurred throughout their lives for different reasons. Specifically, the loss of community, family members,’ access to Polish cultural events or traditions, and cross-cultural marriages has led to language shifts.
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