Language Maintenance: the case of a Turkish speaking community in Birmingham

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Abstract

Turkish speakers in Britain have settled mainly in London and the southeast
of the country. This study concerns a much smaller population in the city of Birmingham in the Midlands, and looks at whether Turkish is surviving in the language repertoires of this group of Northern Cypriots. Its members live in a highly multicultural and multilingual city, and language maintenance would not be exceptional. However, despite this fairly positive setting, there are signs that intergenerational transmission of Turkish is not taking place. The reason for this may be the scattered nature of settlement and adults’ dispersal in di¤erent employment sectors. There are no concentrations in particular industries and areas as in London and the southeast. The subjects studied were likely to be among those most committed to language maintenance since they were all attending Turkish Saturday school. The Turkish that the group was using was distinctive. The variety bears traces of the origin of older members of the group, is highly conservative, and has features which seem to derive from language contact in Birmingham. Members of the group were clearly losing (or not acquiring)
competence in Turkish. However, group commitment to maintenance of
culture and tradition was high. The researchers conclude that the group’s
reason for language maintenance derives to a much greater extent from
loyalty and integrative motivation than instrumental reasons, and that identity
needs may be served by cultural maintenance in place of language
maintenance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Volume2006
Issue number181
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006

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