Language Ecology in Cyprus, Sweden and Estonia: Bilingual Russian-Speaking Families in Multicultural Settings
SourceJournal of the European Second Language Association
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We investigated language transmission in Russian-speaking families in multilingual settings in Cyprus, Estonia and Sweden. What they have in common is their Russian-language background and the minority status of their native language. In Cyprus and Sweden, participants mainly come from immigrant and mixed-marriage communities, while in Estonia they live in a bilingual society, where Estonian is a prestigious language and Russian has low status. To investigate the complex contexts of the informants’ language choices, the language ecology theory was chosen as a theoretical framework. Particular attention was paid to similarities and differences in the three country groups under investigation. Written questionnaires and oral sociolinguistic interviews were used for data collection among Russian-speaking informants in the three countries. We asked whether Russian as the first language was transmitted to the second generation and why. The attitudes towards bilingualism and Russian language transmission (including the change of these attitudes over time) – depending on the parents’ success in bringing up children bilingually – seemed to matter. Parental language choice is one of the main factors contributing to successful transmission. A lot depends on whether there was a desire for integration with the dominant language community, for staying isolated and only preserving the home language, or for having a balanced bilingual/multilingual approach and positive attitude towards both majority and minority languages. The socio-economic status, level of education and mother’s employment status played crucial roles in language transmission and attitudes. The linguistic repertoire of the father (minority, majority, or mixed) also had an effect.