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Nativity, Intermarriage, and Mother-Tongue Shift

Gillian Stevens
American Sociological Review
Vol. 50, No. 1 (Feb., 1985), pp. 74-83
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095341
Page Count: 10
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Nativity, Intermarriage, and Mother-Tongue Shift
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Abstract

A crucial dimension of ethnicity is the extent to which group members share a unique language. Whether or not a unique language persists into native-born generations is determined by the proportion of children who do not learn the language as a mother tongue. This process of mother-tongue shift has been generally viewed in the United States as one in which non-English languages quickly disappear between early generations as ethnic groups adapt to an English-dominated environment. This study more broadly views intergenerational language shift as a function of intra- and intergroup relations, focusing specifically on patterns of linguistic and ethnic intermarriage. The analysis, based on 1976 Survey of Income and Education data, shows that non-English languages disappear between generations as patterns of social interaction widen to include intimate associations outside of the non-English-language community, and outside of the ethnic descent group.

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