Language and the Second Generation: Bilingualism Yesterday and Today

  • Portes A
  • Schauffler R
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Abstract

The language adaptation of second generation children is explored in the context of the history of linguistic absorption and bilingualism in America. Strong nativist pressures toward monolingualism have commonly led to the extinction of immigrant languages in two or three generations. Contemporary fears of loss of English dominance are based on rapid immigration during recent decades and the emergence of linguistic enclaves in several cities around the country. This article explores the extent of language transition and the resilience of immigrant languages on the basis of data from south Florida, one of the areas most heavily affected by contemporary immigration. Results from a sample of 2,843 children of immigrants in the area indicate that: 1) knowledge of English is near universal; 2) preference for English is almost as high, even among children educated in immigrant-sponsored bilingual schools; 3) preservation of parental languages varies inversely with length of U.S. residence and residential locations away from areas of ethnic concentration. Hypotheses about other determinants of bilingualism are examined in a multivariate framework. The relationships of bilingualism to educational attainment and educational and occupational aspirations are also explored.

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Authors

  • Alejandro Portes

  • R Schauffler

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