6.7 Language Shift in the First Generation

Loss of original language is bound to occur over a period of time, but it seems to have occurred faster among the Maltese than among most other ethnic groups. In a study by Clyne (1982) based on the 1976 census, there was an overall language shift (LS) in the first generation of 30.5%, highest being in West Australia (52.6%) and Queensland (46.7%) , with a lesser shift in other states (Victoria 28.3%, NSW 29.9%, SA 33.9%). (Compare these figures with those for other countries such as Greece 3.0%, Italy 6.26%, Yugoslavia 9.54%. On the other hand language shift is more pronounced for North Europeans, e.g. Germany 27.8%, Netherlands 43.5%, Poland 20.2%)

Clyne makes the point that language shift in the first generation is related directly to population ratios: In those states where the number of Maltese in proportion to the general population is low, ( e.g. NT, WA, Tasmania), the LS is very high (greater than 50%), whereas in Victoria and NSW where there are much higher proportions of Maltese, the LS is relatively less (less than 30%). Other factors which influence LS in the first generation include:

  • income: the higher the income, the less the language shift: those earning $9000 (in 1976) had a LS of 59.8%, while those earning $12,00(or more had a LS of 1.37%
  • age: the highest LS was in the 5-14 age group and lowest in the older group 50 + years).

There was no significant correlation of LS with gender, although females tended to have less LS than males (28.2% compared to also Clyne 1988, Clyne & Jaehrling 1989).

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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