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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cast-away cultures and taboo tongues : face(t)s of first language loss Kouritzin, Sandra Gail


This dissertation examines first language loss, or lack of first language development, in minority first language children, trying to answer the questions: (a) what have been the consequences (negative or positive) of losing a first language?, and (b) what does first language loss mean both personally and literally? Taking a multiple life history case study approach, this dissertation seeks to understand first language loss from a descriptive, narrative, retrospective, and personal point-of-view, one heretofore overlooked in language loss research. Linguistic life histories were collected through a series of interviews with each of 21 subjects. Five of the life histories are included in full edited form and are intensively analysed in this dissertation. Additionally, all 21 case studies are reviewed in an emergent theme analysis which examines the consequences of first language loss for family relationships, school relationships, school performance, and self image. A final section of the emergent theme analysis tries to determine the meaning of first language loss. A number of negative consequences of losing one's primary language are cited, including familial misunderstanding, loss of extended family, loss of parental closeness and guidance, anger and frustration toward the family, the school system and the community, poor scholastic performance in some subject areas, poor self image, loss of employment opportunity and marketability, and loss of cultural identity. It is concluded that first language loss has had a significantly negative impact on many aspects of the subjects' lives.

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