Unity and variation in Vietnamese Czech

Jitka Slezakova

Faculty of humanities, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic


Unity and variation in Vietnamese Czech

Vietnamese Czech is a language variety spoken by Vietnamese merchants – one of the largest foreign minorities in the Czech Republic – in transcultural communication since the 80’s. It has been subject to my research focused on linguistic analysis as well as on socio-cultural background of the contact situation. Language use has been examined in two settings: in Czech-Vietnamese communication and in communication within the Vietnamese community. The study started within the context of a project launched by Research center for identity and personality development in Prague and it continues as a part of a grant concerning the topic “Contacts and conflicts - their roots in the continuity and discontinuity of communication”.

First, the linguistic outcome of intercultural contact was analyzed at different levels (morphological, syntactic and phonetic – including suprasegmental features) and several unifying interlanguage-characteristics were detected. These arise from source languages, from processes known in pidginization and SLA research and from patterns common in spontaneous spoken texts (especially in trade communication).

Second, the sociolinguistic variation among Vietnamese speakers was examined aiming at connections between their language proficiency and language attitude on one hand and their footing in the minority community as well as in the host society on the other hand. The data are based on a survey conducted among the Vietnamese merchants in three Czech cities with large residing Vietnamese communities. In one of them the entire minority community was mapped, including Vietnamese elites as well as ordinary members. For assessing language proficiency a functional-typological theory of SLA worked out by Givón was applied. Its interpretation in Sato (1990) had to be slightly modified with respect to language specifics of the corpus. Root causes of the various proficiency levels were examined from the socio-psychological viewpoint.

In my contribution I will show how the (relative) uniformity and (for an ordinary member of the majority population hidden) variability of Vietnamese Czech ranging from basilectal to acrolectal varieties determine the general perception of Vietnamese speakers by the host society as opposed to their position in the minority community itself. In this regard, Vietnamese mediators and second generation deserve special attention.

Session: Paper session
Contact 1
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 10