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The Social and Demographic Context of Language Use in the United States

Gillian Stevens
American Sociological Review
Vol. 57, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 171-185
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096203
Page Count: 15
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The Social and Demographic Context of Language Use in the United States
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Abstract

In multilingual societies like the United States, the languages people use in daily life are the outcome of a variety of choices and constraints. I view the relative frequency with which members of minority language groups use English vis-à-vis their non-English language as the outcome of two sets of factors: (1) the pressures and incentives that encourage non-English language Americans to use English, and (2) the demographic context that constrains the range of opportunities for non-English language Americans to interact with others who can speak their non-English language. The results, based on data from a large national survey, show that both sets of factors strongly influence patterns of language use. Further analysis shows that the demographic context influences patterns of language use in part by affecting the probability that non-English language Americans have spouses with facility in the same non-English language.

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