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6 Language Shift in Community and Individual: The Phenomenon of the Laggard Semi-Speaker (1980)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter looks at language retention on the level of the individual rather than on that of the community, in order to shed light on sources of language loyalty. It is commonplace, in communities where a language shift is underway, for some individuals to be in the vanguard and some to lag behind. Where the laggards are individuals who are more proficient in the language which is giving way, their position is easily understood. Another group of laggards may exist whose resistance to shift is far more difficult to fathom. The "semi-speakers", persist in speaking a language which has low prestige and limited currency despite the fact that they speak it imperfectly and in some cases haltingly. Neither in eastern Sutherland, nor in Berks County, are the bilinguals unaware of the language shift in progress. The semi-speaker phenomenon is apparently not universally characteristic of dying languages and dialects.

Keywords: community; dialects; dying language; eastern Sutherland; group of laggards; individual; laggard semi-speaker; language loyalty; language shift



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