Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Religious Identity and Ethnic Language: Correlations between Shifting Chinese Canadian Religious Affiliation and Mother Tongue Retention, 1931-1961

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Religious Identity and Ethnic Language: Correlations between Shifting Chinese Canadian Religious Affiliation and Mother Tongue Retention, 1931-1961

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT/RESUME

A number of sociological studies suggest non-English speaking immigrants who identify with their ethnic churches often have a higher rate of mother tongue retention than those who convert to mainstream Canadian Protestant churches such as the Anglican or United Church. Other studies in mother tongue retention find a decline in competence from first-to third-generation Canadian minorities, and that the intergenerational decline is fairly rapid among those who affiliate with major Canadian Protestant churches. Recognizing that religious affiliation plays an important role in retention, this paper will examine the relationship between changes in Chinese immigrants' religious identification and mother tongue retention. The specific hypothesis tested is whether ethnic religious identification correlates with mother tongue retention. The possible influence of religious affiliation on linguistic assimilation is examined by comparing the longitudinal shift of Chinese immigrants' religious affiliation with changes in mother tongue retention.

Selon plusieurs etudes sociologiques, les immigrants, qui ne parlent pas anglais et qui s'identifient a leurs eglises ethniques, sont souvent plus a meme de retenir leur langue maternelle que ceux etant membres d'eglises protestantes canadiennes telles que l'eglise anglicane et l'eglise unie. D'autres etudes sur la retention de la langue maternelle soulignent une diminution des competences linguistiques chez les monorites canadiennes de premiere et troisieme generations ainsi qu'une diminution entre les generations assez rapide parmi ceux affilies aux principales eglises protestantes canadiennes. Reconnaissant que l'affiliation religieuse joue un role important en ce qui concerne la retention linguistique, cet article examine le rapport entre le changement d'affiliation religieuse parmi les immigrants chinois et la retention de la langue maternelle. L' article vise a determiner si l'identification religieuse ethnique est liee a la retention de la langue maternelle. La comparaison entre les changements relatif s a l'affiliation religieuse des immigrants chinois et leur retention de leur langue maternelle permet de discuter l'influence de l'affiliation religieuse sur l'assimilation linguistique.

INTRODUCTION

Sociological studies suggest non-English speaking immigrants identifying with their ethnic churches often have greater mother tongue retention than those who convert to mainstream Canadian Protestant churches (e.g., Anglican and United; Kalbach & Richard, 1980, 1990, 1991; Anderson & Driedger, 1980). Other studies find a decline in competence from first to third generation Canadian minorities (O'Bryan et al., 1976; Breton et al., 1990; Kralt & Pendakur, 1991; Castonguay, 1998). Furthermore, Kalbach and Richard's studies showed intergenerational decline in mother tongue competence was fairly rapid among those affiliated with major Canadian Protestant churches. Recent research on language maintenance (Xiao, 1998) showed significant mother tongue decline in a Chinese Protestant Winnipeg church, thus a classic statement about retention was supported; i.e., ethnic minorities tend to lose their mother tongue over generations despite resistance. Studies also provide data about the role of ethnic religious identifica tion in mother tongue retention. As Berry (1998:98) points out, language knowledge and use are intimately associated "with religious practice".

Recognizing that religious affiliation plays an important role in retention, this research examines the relationship between changes in Chinese immigrant religious identification and mother tongue retention. The specific hypothesis tested is whether ethnic religious identification correlates with mother tongue retention. Like most other immigrant minorities, Chinese identifying with their traditional ethnic religion were more likely to retain their mother tongue. …

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