Family, ethnic identity and education in relation to generational heritage language maintenance and shift among Chicanos of the South Plains
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Research in recent years has devoted increasing attention to the maintenance and shift of heritage languages among ethnic minorities in the United States, with Chicanos being no exception. The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors related to family, ethnic identity and education in relation to the maintenance or shift of the Spanish language over generations of Chicanos on the South Plains of Texas. This dissertation presents the findings of a mixed methodology study involving thirteen families in the South Plains area. The focus of the study was on the families of United States born adolescents of Mexican descent. Three generations within each of these families were studied in order to develop a greater understanding of the forces at work in their daily lives that have contributed to either the maintenance of Spanish or the shift to English over time. Each family member was interviewed, and was asked to take part in a Spanish language assessment, a cultural identity measure, and a questionnaire related to linguistic practices and language attitudes. The study utilized a heuristic phenomenological approach to investigate the three constructs of family, ethnic identity and education as they relate to the past and present language experiences of the research participants. Understanding the relationship of these three constructs to heritage language maintenance and shift will serve to further inform educators, parents, and community members about the effects of past and current policies and practices on the maintenance or shift of the Spanish language among Chicanos on the South Plains and in similar geographical areas, so that they may make informed decisions on language policy and socialization according to their long-term goals regarding the linguistic development of future generations. By helping to achieve a greater understanding of the forces at work in the daily lives of Chicanos that contribute to either the maintenance or shift of the Spanish language over generations, this research can add to the knowledge that has been acquired thus far regarding minority language patterns.