ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Attrition and Maintenance of the South Asian Languages in the Indian Diaspora


Samarth Brajesh - Emory University, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Atlanta, United States


32 – Dynamics of Language Diversity, Multilingual Identities and Linguistic Nationalism in South Asia


 Previous research in the field of diasporic language attrition and maintenance have suggested that home languages are replaced by host-land languages. They have also shown that home languages survive with phrases and vocabulary related to mainly food, kinship terms, and religious and social rituals and ceremonies. However, most of these studies focused on what has changed linguistically in home-languages rather why changes occurred first place. I have researched the attrition and maintenance of home languages among the Indian diaspora in the United States. Through this study, I explored the attitudes of Indian diaspora II and III generation children and their parents towards their home languages and investigated the underlying factors and forces which led to their language preferences. This study addressed the questions of what type of multilingualism exists among the Indian diaspora; how language preference leads to home language attrition and maintenance; and how language preference provides a diasporic person with a new linguistic and social identity.

There were three main findings: (1) Multilingualism exists in the Indian diaspora, however, the transfer of home languages to the next generation depends upon many factors, (2) the heavy use of English causes the attrition of home languages, and (3) the Indian diaspora is aware that home languages are very important for maintaining Indian culture and identity, however, we do not see enough efforts and motivation.