Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Immigrant Language Maintenance and Shift in the Gujarati, Dutch and Samoan Communities of Wellington

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posted on 2021-11-10, 07:14 authored by Roberts, Mary Lucy

This thesis makes a contribution to the study of language maintenance and shift among New Zealand ethnic minority communities; it explores reasons for different rates of shift and different outcomes in relation to language maintenance in different communities; and the results are related to wide-ranging issues of New Zealand language policy. Research was undertaken in three minority immigrant groups in Wellington. The Gujarati community in Wellington is a major part of the Indian community totalling approximately 6,000 people at the time of the research; the Samoan community consisted of approximately 16,000 people, and the Dutch of 3,000. 141 members of the Gujarati community responded to questionnaires and interviews about themselves and their children, providing information on patterns of reported language proficiency, language use and attitudes to language maintenance from a total of 327 people. 184 Dutch respondents replied to a postal questionnaire about their own and their children's language knowledge, language usage patterns and attitudes to language maintenance, providing data on 412 people. 93 Samoan respondents filled out questionnaires and responded to interviews about themselves and their 133 children. Thus Information on a total of 965 New Zealanders belonging to minority immigrant communities was obtained. The data collected on patterns of language maintenance and shift is examined in the light of a wide range of language policy issues. The history of language and identity politics, minority immigration in New Zealand, and the immigration histories of the three groups are examined in detail, and the history of language and policy formation in New Zealand, is outlined and evaluated. The research focuses on the process of immigrant language maintenance and shift in the family and immediate community, and also investigates the role of language maintenance education in these processes. Information about language use processes in childhood and adulthood is presented. The Graded Intergeneration Disruption Stages scale, proposed by Joshua Fishman is tested against the information gathered on the three communities and found to be a useful heuristic device. The results of the research show that while processes of language maintenance and shift occur in all three communities, these processes take very different forms in each community, move at different speeds and. to date, have had very different outcomes. The reasons for the differences between the communities in these respects are examined in some detail. Finally, on the basis of the evidence provided by the research, language policy proposals are presented supporting the provision of government services in minority immigrant languages and indicating the advantages of state support for language maintenance education.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Holmes, Janet