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Maintaining the heritage language and identity: the case of new diaspora Telugus in London

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:49 authored by Arun Yadla
This study explores the attitudes towards language and its maintenance by the first- and second-generation new diaspora (post-1947 immigration) Telugus living in London, UK. With a population of less than 10,000, Telugus are a sub-minority group living predominantly in the Hounslow and Newham areas, and the majority of them working in IT-related jobs. Based on their time of arrival (pre- and post-2000), two waves of participants, 109 in total, participated in this first sociological study of language in the UK. Using surveys, interviews and field observations, language use in domains and social networks, ethnolinguistic vitality, and perceptions about language and identity were studied. Restricted use of the heritage language and a low vitality towards the own language group suggest that there is a rapid language shift within the second generation. The early first-generation migrants (wave 1) showed more integration into the dominant society and language shift is complete among their children. This was due to the dispersed settlement patterns, a small heritage language network, length of residence and favourable attitudes towards the dominant language and culture. The first generation of wave 2 was observed to be more active as a group and have favourable attitudes towards the maintenance of their heritage language. Reasons for this include increased networking opportunities with the Telugus in London/UK, opportunities to live as cohesive communities, increased contact with India and advances in communication technology. Children of wave 2 were observed to have oracy skills; however, the high vitality assigned to the dominant group and the use of English among same-language friends suggests subtractive rather than additive bilingualism. The new communication technologies, travels, kinship ties, media and cultural associations are allowing people to get together and celebrate their identity through festivals, films and cultural events. The study finds that there has been an increase in Telugu cultural activities around London in recent years. However, they do not seem to influence the language maintenance of the second generation of each wave. Findings suggest that language shift rather than maintenance is dominant. However, the identity of being a Telugu is maintained, regardless of linguistic ability.



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