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Title:Language maintenance by Haitian immigrants in the USA: a case study of the Chicago community
Author(s):Laforet, Johnny Alex
Director of Research:Bokamba, Eyamba G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fagyal, Zsuzsanna
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Escobar, Anna Maria; Bowles, Melissa
Department / Program:French and Italian
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language Maintenance
Haitian Creole
Haitians in Chicago
Linguistic Identity
Abstract:This dissertation addresses fundamental questions regarding the factors that facilitate and/or impede multi-generational mother tongue (L1) maintenance, with an emphasis on immigrant contexts by case-studying the Haitian immigrant community in Chicago as a potential exemplar of bilingual immigrant communities that is embedded in an economically and culturally dominant language: English. The dissertation examines the question of inter-generational language maintenance and transmission in that community based on fieldwork conducted there for almost a year. It addresses essentially three questions into which a few others are embedded: (1) Has the Haitian Immigrants living in Chicago been able to successfully maintain their linguistic repertoire inter-generationally without shifting to English? (2) If so, how have they managed to achieve this difficult task? And (3), if they have not been as successful, because they have experienced, for example, attrition some in one or both languages (i.e., French and Haitian Creole) or failed to transmit them to the 2nd and 3rd generations, why has this occurred and what specific factors might account for this outcome? The dissertation answers these and the related questions unambiguously, and considers the theoretical implications of the findings. Specifically, the analysis of the data, that were collected via several instruments including a questionnaire and selected follow-up interviews, showed that the Haitian immigrants in Chicago have successfully maintained their two languages firmly through the second generation and to a limited extent the third generation. They have achieved these results through a combination of language and cultural maintenance strategies that include: the use of their two languages in the family domain; participation in the church for religious and community-wide interactional purposes; engaging themselves in social gatherings outside of the church to mark special events such as celebrations of Haitian historical dates (i.e., the independence date, Flag Day); and tuning into radio or TV programs that are broadcast in or support the usage of French and Haitian Creole. I argue, among other points, that these strategies account not only for the success of language maintenance documented in the study, but also provide an explanation for such a success in a non-enclaved immigrant community where it is commonly unexpected. The study also considers other theoretical issues, including the achievement of language maintenance in a non-enclaved immigrant community; the Haitianness identity; the role of grandparents in fostering language maintenance in the family domain; and, to a limited but nonetheless important respect, language transmission to the 3rd generation. It is argued with respect to language maintenance and transmission by Haitians, for example, that their Haitianness identity and the use of Haitian Creole as an identity marker has played a pivotal role.
Issue Date:2016-07-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Johnny Laforet
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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