Shift Happens, But When?: Inter- and Intra-Generational Language Shift among Hispanic Americans

Jennifer M. Ortman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Gillian Stevens, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Scholars have argued that immigrant languages disappear through mother-tongue shift within three generations when immigrants or their immediate descendants do not teach their non-English language to the next generation. Here we consider the role of intra-generational language shift (when individuals shift to the use of English over time) as well as the role of inter-generational language shift (when the language repertoires of children and their parents do not match) in the disappearance of Spanish among Hispanic Americans. We use CPS data from 1979, 1989 and 2004 to trace both inter- and intra-generational language shift within and across generations. Our results show after the first generation that both inter- and intra-generational shift play important roles in the disappearance of Spanish in the American context. The results have implications for understanding when and why Americans let go of an increasingly valuable resource in a globalizing and multilingual world.

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Presented in Poster Session 6