Use of Croatian across domains: language maintenance and shift amongst Croatian-speakers in Australia

Hlavac, Jim

Monash University, Australia


This paper firstly gives a brief statistical overview of the number of Croatian-speakers in Australia in relation to other ethnic or community languages and concentrates on aspects of language use amongst second-generation Croatian-Australians. Second-generation members are generally English-dominant in terms of proficiency. Croatian is the unmarked choice with informants' parents and with others members of the first generation. Language maintenance or shift factors are framed within an examination of language use within Fishman's (1965) sociolinguistic domains: home/family; personal/intimate; leisure/social life/religion; media; workplace/shopping/neighbourhood; education; spouse/partner; (future) children and a value cluster of overt language attitudes.

Use of Croatian is generation-specific to members of the first generation, currently the home/family domain for most informants. However, the language variety Croatian and English is used in a number of situations such as leisure, religious activities and sometimes even the workplace. Employing a framework which also examines informants' social networks (cf. Gibbons and Ramirez, 2004) a language variety within the leisure/social life/religion domain characterised by frequent and unmarked code-switching is discernable (cf. Hlavac, 2003).

Further, Croatian and English are frequently used in the personal and media domains. Few informants have children and therefore projections about language use with the succeeding, 'third' generation remain hypothetical. An existing Croatian schooling system and informants' positive attitudes to language maintenance appear promising as a basis for transmission to the next generation. However, examining the position of Croatian in Melbourne according to Fishman's (1991) stages of Reversing Language Shift (RLS) shows that an intergenerationally and demographically concentrated home-family-neighbourhood domain does not exist as a stable basis for mother tongue transmission.
- Fishman, J. 1965 Who speaks what language to whom and when? La linguistique 2, 67-88.
- Fishman, J. 1991 Reversing language shift. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
- Gibbons, J. and E. Gibbons 2004 Maintaining a minority language. A case study of Hispanic teenagers. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
- Hlavac, J. 2003 Second-generation speech. Lexicon, code-switching and morpho-syntax of Croatian-English bilinguals. Bern: Peter Lang.

Session: Paper session
Shift 1 (Maintenance)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 12