Immigration, Language, and Conflicting Ideologies: The Czech in Texas
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The nineteenth-century mass migration to the agricultural regions of the USA created conditions for the formation of cultural enclaves. These enclaves flourished usually for up to three generations before they began to merge with the majority culture. Their speakers exhibited particular attitudes to the home language and nation as well as strategies of maintaining self-identity and defending a parallel sociolinguistic presence. The eventual atrophy of the immigrant language (resulting from cultural marginalization, isolation from the resource culture of the homeland, contact with English or another majority language and the pressures of Americanization) became a signal of assimilation manifested in language variation and change affecting the lexicon, grammar, and stylistic range as well as expansion of one’s social networks. Among the immigrant languages, Czech in Texas represents a particular code of Czech that illustrates these characteristics and outcomes. Tombstone inscriptions in Texas cemeteries map out the layout of the once prosperous enclave and represent an unusual resource to study primary language data. As artifacts of a vernacular culture, they literally stand for a culture and language that no longer exist. They also attest to the practices of ethnic and religious exclusion, social non-integration, and economic noncooperation that is a survival strategy by social autarchy.
KeywordsCemetery inscription Identity Ideology Immigration Language contact
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