THE HMONG LANGUAGE IN WISCONSIN: Language Shift and Pragmatic Change

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This work demonstrates the change in how speakers use language to request, thank, and perform other interpersonal verbal tasks in Hmong, an immigrant language now spoken in Wisconsin, Minnesota and California, as well as in its native Laos. Since the changes that have taken place in Hmong follow directly from the language's extended contact with American English, this book illustrates the localized, specific, pragmatic effects of language globalization on a small, displaced language community.


“In the thirty or more years that the Hmong have been our neighbors in the United States, many scholarly articles, books, theses and dissertations have appeared on Hmong culture, art, education, health, and social welfare, but not nearly enough studies have appeared on the Hmong language. . . .[this book] advances our understanding of both the Hmong language and language contact phenomena in general.” – Prof. Martha Ratliff, Wayne State University

“. . . innovative and highly informative not only of the Hmong in Wisconsin but to the overall study of sociolinguistics. She effectively introduces the reader to her participants and provides a clear explanation of the importance of studying this group. Her results not only inform us of the status of language shift among the Hmong in Wisconsin but phenomenon that can be applied to other immigrant groups in the US, for example the Hispanic minority.” – Prof Christina, Isabelli, Illinois Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Foreword by Martha Ratliff
List of Abbreviations
Introduction; The Hmong and Language Shift
The Hmong in Wisconsin: Origins and immigration
Framing the research: Methodology
The roles of the researchers
Data collection methods
Chapter 1: Language Shift and Pragmatics
Theorizing language shift
Speaker-focused views of language shift
Code copying
Speakers evaluating difference: purism
Studies of indexicality and language shift
Immigration, culture shift and values association
Gender and language shift
The Pragmatic Framework
Chapter 2: Requests by Two Generations of Speakers
Parameters of request description
Request realization by the immigrant generation
Supportive moves
Perspective in the head act
Pragmatic particles
Request realization in the Hmong of younger speakers
Supportive moves
Perspective in the head act
Summary: Generational Differences in Request Strategies
Particles in Requests
Young Hmong-Americans’ use of please
Opting out or Avoidance
Opting out by younger speakers
Metapragmatic comments by two generations: opting out and thov
Chapter Summary
Notes to Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Wisconsin Hmong Speakers’ Responses to Helpful Acts
Strategies used by the elders
Explicit Thanking
Deflecting the deed
Related Statements and Questions
Semantic functions of related statements
Saying nothing
Other expressions: address terms and particles
Strategies used by younger speakers
Explicit thanking
Deflecting the deed
Other strategies: statements, questions, saying nothing
Address terms and particles
Summary of generational differences
Metapragmatic commentary from both generations
Metapragmatic commentary by the elders
Younger speakers’ metapragmatic commentary
Asymmetrical obligations and expectations
Gender differences
Chapter summary
Notes to Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Advice for a Face-Threatening Situation
Advice from young Hmong-American men
Advice from male elders
Advice from young Hmong-American women
Advice from older Hmong women
Speech act types recommended by all groups of speakers
Implications for politeness studies
Expectations for interaction and language ideology
Gender and Interaction in Hmong-American Literature
“The Good Hmong Girl,” a short story
A playscript, “Hmoob Boy Meets Hmong Girl”
The Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA)
The RPA within the play
Associative shift
Chapter summary
Notes to Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Towards a Pragmatics of Language Shift

Hmong and Politeness Theories
Research methods in the pragmatics of minority languages
Research with shifting, threatened and endangered languages
Further research on Hmong in the Midwest
Appendix A: Hmong Language Speech Act Realization Questionnaire
Appendix B: Consonants, Vowels and Tones of Hmong
Index of Proper Names
Subject Index

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