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Changing ideologies and extralinguistic determinants in language maintenance and shift among ethnic diaspora Armenians in Beirut

By Arda Jebejian

Abstract

The Armenian Diaspora in Lebanon was formed after the 1915 genocide, when the arrival of survivors reached its peak. Since its creation no study has been undertaken to examine the impact of displacement, survival, and multilingualism in Lebanon on the status of its language, and the linguistic and attitudinal behavior of its members.\ud This thesis explores the state of the Armenian language through the analysis of language use and domains of use. It investigates the ways Armenians perceive their ethnicity and loyalties, since the awareness of the community and its linguistic ideology and loyalties are the interpretive and explanatory basis for research in this area.\ud Some of the major findings are that limited use of the language is leading to limited exposure to that language, which results in a circle of decreasing competence, lack of confidence in using the language, and increasing reliance and shift to Arabic, English, and French.\ud The study shows that the pattern of language use was very different in the period following the survivors' settlement in Lebanon from what it is today. The generational disparities in attitudes and perceptions demonstrate that along with the significant changes in the way different generations of Armenians grasp the meaning of the Genocide and their ethno-cultural identity, there are also considerable differences regarding feelings of loyalty to their ancestral language, homeland, and heritage.\ud What is particularly striking is that the changes which affected the Armenians since their coming to Lebanon in the early decades of the last century are primarily ideological transformations, new ways of looking at the world and at themselves. While the older interviewees lament the present situation, the younger interviewees accept it as natural.\ud What unfolds is deterioration in the status of the Armenian language and the oral fluency of its speakers, who have undergone a larger and more intense change in matters once held almost sacred by their parents and grandparents

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9449

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