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|Title:||ENDANGERMENT ABROAD: EVIDENCE FROM NEO-ARAMAIC POLITENESS, METAPHORICITY AND IDIOMATICITY|
|Department:||Cognitive Science of Language|
|Abstract:||This thesis examines Neo-Aramaic as an endangered language in the diaspora. It sheds some light on some linguistic and pragmatic aspects that have received little scholarly attention to date in Semitic literature, language endangerment and first language (L1) erosion in language contact studies. This thesis also draws attention to the fact that research on North Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) dialects needs to take into account that language (pragmatics) is an emergent phenomenon, especially in contract situations. Linguists need to shift gears and start empirical research that is derived from contextualized language use. In three studies, the thesis addresses the role that acculturation plays in molding L1 communicative competence and, in turn, macro-linguistic components of language, such as idioms, metaphors and politeness strategies. Chapter 2 deals with animal-based metaphors as conceptual categories belonging to a rudimentary level of knowledge. We report evidence which shows that Neo-Aramaic-English bilinguals (NA-E) failed to provide interpretations of culturally distinct animal-based metaphors that align with the interpretations of older NA speakers. This finding indicates that the cognitive process of conceptualizing animal metaphors is motivated by the way NA-E bilinguals perceive the world around them in an environment where NA is considered the language of an ethnocultural group. This shift in the NA-E bilinguals’ cognition represents a departure from the concerted conceptualizations of their L1 culture. In chapter 3, we examined NA-E bilinguals’ comprehension of two sets of decomposable and non-decomposable NA idioms obtained from older NA speakers and chosen on the basis of their high familiarity. NA-E bilinguals’ performance showed a marked decline on both decomposable and nondecomposable task compared to Canadian-English monolingual speakers (CE). The evidence reported here shows a high degree of L1 erosion in figurative competence which is, to a large extent, dependent on cultural beliefs and conventions. The study in chapter 4 documents the effect of acculturation on NA-E bilinguals’ behavioural competencies in terms of separateness and connectedness politeness strategies. Chapter 4 foregrounds the idea that NA speakers represent a collectivist culture whereas CE speakers belong to individualistic cultures. The study shows that NA-E bilinguals diverge from the politeness patterns of their cultural group, but their shift is compatible with the individualistic cultural norms. It provides fresh evidence that cultural adaptation to the majority group shapes cultural cognition and thus prompts L1 speakers to approximate L2 cultural preferences. Taken all together, the findings of this thesis demonstrate that language erosion is not limited to the structural aspects of language (morphosyntax and phonology), but it extends, in a regressive fashion, to include more advanced skills that are necessary to develop native-like proficiency. By and large, language atrophy is not necessarily caused by mere linguistic factors, but rather by a number of extralinguistic factors and culture is one of them.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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