AdvisorHill, Jane H.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis project is based on six months of ethnolinguistic fieldwork in rural Texas Czech communities, mainly in Granger (Williamson County) and West (McLennan County), exploring the role that an obsolescent language continues to play in the immigrant community and in the shifting definitions of its members' ethnic identity. Drawing on the community members' perspective, I examine the causes of discontinued transmission of Czech, the notion of a speaker of Texas Czech/Moravian and of the Texas Czech speech community, the contexts of Texas Czech use and its role in the speaker's identity, the self-defined ethnolinguistic identities vis-a-vis the speakers' idiolects, and attitudes toward the attempts at language revival. Two groups of focal informants (born before and after 1945) include second-to-fourth generation descendants of the first Texas settlers from the Lachian and Wallachian regions of Moravia (presently part of the Czech Republic). The database consists of fieldnotes from participant observation, 39 interviews, and attitudinal questionnaires. Structured tasks were used to elicit comparable linguistic data on lexicon, dialectal and reduced features of Texas Czech. Among my findings are that the stigmatized image of Texas Czech tends to implicitly justify the discontinued language transmission, because speaking a "broken" language is undesirable. Members of the speech community, the narrowest section of the Texas Czech community, include 'visible' activists, often perceived as Czech speakers regardless of their language ability. Any use of Texas Czech, encouraged only by specific functional and social contexts, manifests ethnic group membership, yet one does not have to speak the language to feel Czech or Moravian. The informants' self-definitions reflect the process of intergenerational ethic redefinition. Among creative and often commercialized manifestations of Czechness, Texas Czech folk music helps maintain the 'idea' of the heritage language. Most informants value their cultural heritage and support in principle any efforts to preserve the language, but they realize its limited utility. Yet the interest in learning Czech among the youth exists and should be exploited. Overall, a comparison of Granger and West shows that the effective display and marketing of the "Czech heritage" does not necessarily enhance chances for language retention.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquistion and Teaching