Language and Ethnic Relations in Canada

Language and Ethnic Relations in Canada

Language and Ethnic Relations in Canada

Language and Ethnic Relations in Canada

Excerpt

There is more than one way to write a book on the contact between different language groups. This volume is organized from the perspective of an American sociologist (born in Canada, however, and with a special affection for that nation) who is interested in the ecological facets of race and ethnic relations. The book stems from a curiosity about why groups in contact maintain their distinctive languages over the centuries in some countries but elsewhere give up their native tongues in a few generations. At one and the same time this study deals with Canada, bilingualism, ethnic relations, and human ecology.

The approach taken is very frankly an ecological one, with emphasis on such factors as population composition, residential segregation and isolation, occupational pressures, and age and sex differences in bilingualism. Ecology is only one of many possible approaches that may be used to place linguistic pluralism into a sociological framework; however, I think the dimensions outlined in this study are important considerations in explaining the societal and community outcomes of linguistic contact. They do not explain why two bilingual strangers at a cocktail party choose one language over another, nor does this approach provide any insight into whether stammering is less likely among monolinguals or whether one tongue is a more desirable medium for certain types of message. Rather, whatever the nuances and fascinating subtleties of language contact, there are certain immediate questions about the survival or decline of languages in contact that can be fruitfully explored through an ecological consideration.

Since little emphasis is placed on the influence of norms, cultural tenacity, values, attitudes, and the like, some readers may feel that the kind of variables examined do not get at the heart of ethnic contact, the real questions. There are those whose study of race and ethnic relations places considerable emphasis on the cultural differences between groups. As far as I can tell, "culture" is used by many to incorporate virtually all parts of man's life. Language is surely a part of culture that is of great importance to the . . .

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