I've lost it here dè a bh' agam: Language shift, maintenance, and code-switching in a bilingual family

Smith-Christmas, Cassie (2012) I've lost it here dè a bh' agam: Language shift, maintenance, and code-switching in a bilingual family. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (2MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2958013


This thesis examines the language shift, maintenance, and code-switching of three generations of a bilingual family on the Isles of Skye and Harris, Scotland. Based on ten hours of recorded conversations among family members in the home environment, this thesis focuses particularly on the speakers’ alternation between Gaelic and English and uses a microinteractional approach in looking at how code-switching is used in the meaning-making process of this family’s interactions. It concludes that although speakers vary in terms of both ability and use of the minority language, code-switching is nonetheless a powerful communicative tool within this family. Additionally, speakers within the three generations have different ways of code-switching for effect as well as various ways of ‘doing being bilingual’ (cf. Auer, 1984).

In looking at the family’s overall use of both languages, the study finds that the first generation proportionally uses more Gaelic than the second and third generations, confirming that language shift is occurring within the family. Analysis of the first generation speakers’ intragenerational language use demonstrates that speakers use code-switching in concert with reifying certain stances and in modulating between different stances in the conversation. It also examines how code-switching is used in congruence with rendering constructed dialogue, and argues that these instances of language alternation are related to the narrator’s indexical and discourse organisational goals. The discussion of the first generation concludes by arguing that these speakers use code-switching primarily as a strategy to mitigate communicative trouble, a theme which is carried forward in focusing on the use of one first generation speaker’s code-switching in two lengthy narratives. This section argues that the use of code-switching is integral to the speaker’s success in the storytelling process, and demonstrates how the speaker uses code-switching in oscillating between the storyworld and the real-world interaction, as well uses code-switching in navigating different temporal frames within the narrative.

Although the second generation evidence language shift by their overall low use of Gaelic, they are nonetheless trying to maintain the use of Gaelic with the third generation. An examination of the second generation’s language use focuses primarily on their use of the minority language in creating a child-centred context. It also further looks at how the parents of the third generation speakers use Gaelic when taking up authoritative stances towards their children. Discussion of the third generation’s language use centres on how the children in turn pereceive and use Gaelic as a ‘strategy for gain’ and focuses in particular on their occasional use of Gaelic in constructing argumentative stances vis-à-vis their parents’ displays of authority. The section concludes by examining an interaction where the youngest speaker in the study uses an increased amount of Gaelic on the telephone, arguing that the use of Gaelic in this context is one of the ways this third generation speaker enacts a first generation identity.

This study demonstrates that although language shift is occurring, the family is nonetheless trying to maintain their minority language. Code-switching is a powerful communicative strategy within the family and all members, and even family members with only passive bilingual skills ‘do being part of a bilingual family.’

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Gaelic; Code-Switching; Bilingualism; Language Shift; Language Maintenance; Stance; Constructed Dialogue; Heritage Learner; Bilingual First Language Acquisition
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
College of Arts > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Supervisor's Name: O Maolalaigh, Professor Roibeard and Stuart-Smith, Dr. Jane
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Ms. Cassie Smith-Christmas
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3798
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2012 16:12
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2013 12:08
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3798

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year