Bilingual Experience in the Hungarian and German Immigrant Communities of the San Francisco Bay Area

Gergely Tóth


Studies on the interaction of languages are gaining importance in today’s world, characterized by accelerated migration and increasing cultural exchange. Unlike most research in this field, which concentrate on one embedded language against a matrix language, this fieldwork-based study examines the linguistic life in two immigrant populations, Hungarian and German, against the background of English. The primary focus of this article is the description of the bilingual and bicultural experience of the two groups. The discussion of language and identity will take a central place in the paper, and diglossia, bilingualism, loyalty, and language as social behavior will also be touched upon (section 4). This is complemented by a socio-historical portrayal of these speech communities of San Francisco, set forth in the preceding section 3. Section 5 provides an outline of the informant sets, spanning three generations in each linguistic cohort, and illustrates the subjects’ attitude towards maintenance. The final, sixth section offers qualitative and quantitative comparative statements about the results of linguistic interference and the ongoing attrition process, thus contributing to our understanding of contact linguistic mechanisms, and shedding light on specific grammatical and lexical features that are most prone to attritional forces.


Hungarian and German immigration history, diaspora, linguistic interference; attrition; maintenance; San Francisco; California

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