Falam Immigrants in America: Motivations for Language Use, Maintenance and Shift
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Using a mixed qualitative and quantitative approach, this study explores immigrants’ individual motivations for language use, language shift and language maintenance. I met with 25 immigrants to the US who are native speakers of Falam, a language from Myanmar, to learn their reasons for Falam and English usage as well as their desires for Falam usage in the US. I used the Perceived Beneft Model of Language Shift’s taxonomy of motivations to classify each motivation expressed. Among Falam immigrants to America, I found that solidarity-related and communicative motivations are behind language maintenance while economic and communicative motivations are behind language shift. I conclude with a discussion on the role motivations play in forecasting ethnolinguistic vitality and initiating language development, suggesting the use of a wider framework such as Lewis and Simon’s Sustainable Use Model to account for factors such as changing societal values and varying strengths of motivations.