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The Acquisition and Maintenance of Ethnic Languages among Second-Generation Immigrant Children
Ma, Ying

2012, PhD, University of Cincinnati, Arts and Sciences: Sociology.

Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K), I examine the effects of family and school characteristics on immigrant children’s retention of their ethnic language. Specifically, this study seeks to resolve three questions: 1) how parents’ socioeconomic status affects the acquisition and maintenance of a non-English language among immigrant children; 2) how the parent-child relationship affects children’s language use; and 3) how the school environment affects the change in immigrant children’s home language use.


Multivariate logistic regression analyses reveal that immigrant parents’ SES has a non-linear effect on the acquisition and maintenance of an ethnic language among immigrant children. Immigrant children with parents at the lower and the higher end of the SES spectrum are more likely to learn and speak a non-English language. However, those with low- SES parents are less likely to preserve that language over time. When examining the effect of the parent-child relationship on immigrant children’s acquisition of a non-English language, the results are mixed. Some cohesive parent-child variables show positive effects on children’s acquisition of an ethnic language, while some show a negative effect. Finally, the change in schools’ demographic composition has an unexpected effect on immigrant children’s language maintenance. When immigrant children move from schools with a low proportion of minority students to a higher proportion of minority students, they are less likely to keep using a non-English language.


This study calls for more longitudinal research to examine the change in immigrant children’s language use. Also, as an extension of current studies, future research needs to focus more on immigrant children’s everyday life and its impact on their language use.

Steven Carlton-Ford, , PhD (Committee Chair)
Littisha Bates, , PhD (Committee Member)
Jeffrey Timberlake, , PhD (Committee Member)
119 p.

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Ma, Y. (2012). The Acquisition and Maintenance of Ethnic Languages among Second-Generation Immigrant Children. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Ma, Ying. "The Acquisition and Maintenance of Ethnic Languages among Second-Generation Immigrant Children." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2012. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 22 Nov 2017.

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Ma, Ying "The Acquisition and Maintenance of Ethnic Languages among Second-Generation Immigrant Children." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2012. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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