, sometimes referred to as
, is the
progressive process whereby a speech community of a language
shifts to speaking another language. The
rate of assimilation is the percentage of individuals with a given
mother tongue who speak another language more often in the home.
The data is used to measure the use of a given language in the
lifetime of a person, or most often across generations within a
The process whereby a community of speakers of one language becomes
bilingual in another language, and gradually shift allegiance to
the second language is called assimilation
. When a linguistic
community ceases to use their original language, we speak of
Alsace, France, a longtime
German-speaking region, German and
Alsatian, the native Germanic dialect, all
but disappeared as useful languages after a period of being banned
subsequent to the Second World War,
superseded by French.
last two centuries, Brussels transformed
from an exclusively Dutch-speaking
city to a bilingual city with French
as the majority language and lingua
franca. The language shift began in the 18th century
and accelerated as Belgium became
independent and Brussels expanded
out past its original city boundaries.
From 1880 on, more
and more Dutch-speaking people became bilingual, resulting in a
rise of monolingual French-speakers after 1910. Halfway through the
20th century the number of monolingual French-speakers carried the
day over the (mostly) bilingual Flemish inhabitants. Only since the
1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language
and the socio-economic development of Flanders was in
full effect, could Dutch stem the tide of increasing French
, which gradually
became part of France between 1659 and 1678, historically was part
of the Dutch sprachraum
; the native
dialect being West Flemish
linguistic situation did not dramatically change until the French Revolution
in 1789, and Dutch
continued to fulfil the main functions of a cultural language
throughout the 18th century. During the 19th century, especially in
the second half of it, Dutch was banned from all levels of
education and lost most of its functions as a cultural language.
The larger cities had become predominantly French-speaking by the
end of the 19th century. However, in the countryside, many
elementary schools continued to teach in Dutch until World War I
, and the Roman Catholic Church
preach and teach the cathechism
Flemish in many parishes. Nonetheless, since French enjoyed a much
higher status than Dutch, from about the interbellum onward
everybody became bilingual, the generation born after World War II
being raised exclusively in French. In the countryside, the passing
on of Flemish stopped during the 1930s or 1940s. As a consequence,
the vast majority of those still having an active command of
Flemish belong to the generation of over the age of 60. Therefore,
complete extinction of French Flemish
can be expected in the coming decades.
("Language Shift in
the United States," 1983) has written extensively on the language
shift process of a dozen minority language groups in the United
States. Based on a 1976 study prepared by the Bureau of the Census,
data show that rates of language shift and assimilation have been
rising for the past fifty years in the United States. Immigrants of
Spanish mother tongue are switching to English within two
generations, and in the absence of continuing immigration, the
language would not survive more than two generations. Quebecois French, widely spoken by
French-Canadian immigrants in New England in the early 20th century, has more or less
disappeared from the U.S., replaced by English; a similar process
has occurred in Louisiana, a former French colony.
Data published in
McKay and Wong's "New Immigrants in the United States" confirm this
picture with data from the 1990 Census.
process has also been observed in Canada outside of Quebec, where the
rates of shift for French language minorities presage their
Meanwhile, in Quebec itself, the decline of
French has been reversed, and given high rates of emigration and
substantial intermarriage with French Canadians, the English
language is now faced with decline.
Before the 1930s, Italian
only official language of Malta, even though it was only spoken by
the upper classes, with Maltese
being spoken by the lower class. However, English
was then added to the mix, and was
made a co-official language alongside Maltese, with Italian being
dropped as official. The English language has since grown in the
country, and now threatens the status of Maltese. Interestingly,
the number of speakers of Italian there has increased from when the
language was official. A trend among the younger generations is to
mix English and Italian vocabulary patterns, in making new Maltese
words. For example, the Maltese word for library was originally
"bibljoteka", but this has since been displaced by "libreria",
formed from the English "library", and an Italian pattern ending.
In addition to mixing English with Italian, Maltenglish
is an amalgam of English and Maltese
that commonly occurs. This involves using English words in midset
sentences of Maltese, or adding English vocabulary into Maltese.
Trends show that English is not only becoming the language of
choice for a larger and larger number of people, but is actually
transforming the Maltese language itself.
families have gradually switched over to English since the end of World War II until the former eventually ceased
to be a practical everyday language in the country.
example would be the gradual death of the Kinaray-a language of Panay as many native
speakers especially in the province of Iloilo are
switching to Hiligaynon or mixing both
languages together. Kinaray-a was once
spoken in the towns outside the vicinity of Iloilo City while Hiligaynon was only
limited in the eastern coasts and the city proper.
due to media and other factors such as urbanization, many younger
generations have switched from Kinaray-a
to Hiligaynon, especially on the towns of
Cabatuan, Santa Barbara, Calinog, Miagao, Passi City, Guimbal, Tigbauan, Tubungan, etc. Many towns especially the towns of Janiuay, Lambunao, and San Joaquin still
have a sizeable Kinaray-a speaking
population with the standard accent similar to that spoken in the
predominantly Karay-a province of Antique. Even in the province of Antique, the issue of "Hiligaynization" is something to be
comfronted about as the province, especially the capital town of
San Jose de
Buenavista is undergoing urbanization. Many investors from
City brings with them Hiligaynon-speaking workers who are reluctant to
learn the local language.
One of the problems of Kinaray-a
written form, as its unique "schwa sound" is difficult to represent
in orthography. As time goes by, Kinaray-a has disappeared in many areas it was
once spoken especially in the island of Mindoro and only remnants
of the past remains in such towns as Pinamalayan, Bansud, Gloria, Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay, and Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro and Sablayan, Calintaan,
Oriental Mindoro, and Magsaysay in Occidental
Mindoro, as Tagalog became
the standard and dominantly recognized official language of these
Language shift can be detrimental to at least parts of the
community associated with the language which is being lost.
Sociolinguists such as Joshua
, Lilly Wong Fillmore and Jon Reyhner report that
language shift (when it involves loss of the first language) can
lead to cultural disintegration and a variety of social problems
including increased alcoholism, dysfunctional families and
increased incidence of premature death.
example, Ohiri-Aniche (1997) observes a tendency among many
Nigerians to bring up their children as monolingual speakers
of English and reports that this can lead to their children holding
their heritage language in disdain and feeling ashamed of being
associated with the language of their parents and
As a result of this some Nigerians are said to
feel neither fully European nor fully Nigerian.
has proposed a method
of reversing language shift
which involves assessing the degree to which a particular language
is disrupted in order to determine the most effective way of
assisting and revitalising the language.
- Ohiri-Aniche, C (1997) Nigerian languages die. Quarterly
Review of Politics, Economics and Society 1(2), 73-9
- Bastardas-Boada, Albert (2007), “Linguistic sustainability for a multilingual
humanity”, Glossa. An Interdisciplinary
Journal (on-line), vol. 2, n. 2.
- Bastardas-Boada, Albert (2002), "Biological and linguistic diversity:
Transdisciplinary explorations for a socioecology of
languages", Diverscité langues, vol. VII, Analyses et