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A comparative study of multilingual Pakistanis in Amsterdam and Birmingham

By Sharon Karima Imtaiz


This thesis examines the language use of adult, first generation Pakistanis and Kashmiris settled in\ud Amsterdam and Birmingham. It seeks to show that the research subjects' use of the many languages and\ud language varieties at their command is neither random nor illogical, but rather, aids both community formation in the diaspora and the attainment of individual goals. This attainment of goals involves a use of language which may be pragmatic or affective but, particularly when addressing a heterogeneous audience, is often both simultaneously. The primary importance of context is illustrated. This context is both transnational, in the sense that the Pakistani migrant-settlers studied form part of a world-wide diaspora, and bounded by conditions in the two European metropolises of Amsterdam and Birmingham. There is also a local context, defined by the particular areas of town where most of the respondents lived. Finally, there is a context of power relationships operating through community networks, where gender and religion, in this case Islam, play a significant role.\ud The Introduction discusses some historical and political aspects of language issues in the Indian subcontinent\ud and their continuing influence. The first part of the Literature Review and much of Chapter Four, which examine previous studies of the Pakistani communities in England and the Netherlands and give background information respectively, concentrate more on the influence of place than time. Chapter Four also contains a discussion of how the concept of "diaspora" may be applied to the Pakistanis here studied. Many of the languages spoken by the respondents form part of a continuum: hence, the repeated use of terms such as "the Punjabi family of languages", or, "the Pahari group". These and other terms are defined in the Methodology section, which is Chapter Three.\ud Issues of methodology are not restricted to Chapter Three but are also strands which run through the whole work. The highly multilingual nature of the research subjects rendered some techniques favoured by sociolinguists, such as matched guise tests, inappropriate. The mobility of many individuals posed both practical and analytical difficulties. Some questions of particular social relevance to the group studied influenced research design, such as the separation of the sexes and, in Amsterdam, the presence of undocumented workers in the community. Language issues which are of great concern to researchers in Pakistan and northern India have less relevance in the Netherlands and England, and the reverse is also true. This became apparent to the researcher through conversations with scholars in Pakistan during her fieldwork visit there. More co-operation by scholars in the regions of origin and in the regions of settlement on the interface between ethnicity and language is needed. Any such collaborative research could have important applications in the areas of language planning and language rights.\ud Chapter Five discusses findings from the individual interviews and Chapter Six deals with the analysis\ud of the observation of group interactions. They are separate sections for clarity of exposition but this separation is artificial. All of the interviewees also participated in at least one and typically several of the group events. Hence, it was possible to observe and analyse the differences and similarities between individuals' reported and actual language use, and how individuals, with their distinct histories and statuses contribute to and benefit from group multilingual encounters.\ud The Conclusion shows how the Pakistani communities studied - and the researcher believes this must be true of many other migrant groups - came from multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual societies and settled in similarly heterogeneous environments in Europe. Hence, far from suffering crises as a result of being "between two cultures", they were able to use tried and tested strategies in the new environment to their advantage. Central to such regroupment and reworking of tradition was their multilingualism

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