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"How Do I Teach My Kids My Broken Armenian?": A Study of Eastern Armenian Heritage Language Speakers in Los Angeles

  • Author(s): Karapetian, Shushan
  • Advisor(s): Cowe, S. Peter
  • Kagan, Olga
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation introduces Armenian, specifically Eastern Armenian in the Los Angeles context, into the landscape of heritage languages in the United States. Given the lack of knowledge about Armenian as a heritage language, both in the fields of Heritage Language Research and Armenian Studies, this study offers the first comprehensive examination of Armenian heritage language speakers in a variety of capacities. Each chapter presents a dimension of its own, highlighting particular qualities of this group of speakers while expanding knowledge about heritage languages and speakers in general. The study begins by assessing the overall landscape of Armenian and Armenians in Los Angeles, including an evaluation of the linguistic presence and use of the language, as well as signs of loss. The research then examines the incomplete acquisition process among heritage speakers by delineating linguistic features in the categories of phonology, morphology, register, and borrowings from English. Additionally, patterns of language use are investigated with the proposal of multiple domains of linguistic compartmentalization. Moreover, this study explores the persistent anxiety connected with using the heritage language and identifies the damaging cycle it generates. Finally, this research considers inconsistent attitudes and beliefs concerning the heritage language with an analysis of the impact of competing majority and minority language ideologies.

The primary source of data for this dissertation stems from a series of in-depth audio-recorded interviews with college-age heritage language learners of Eastern Armenian, consisting of questions related to background, education, use of, and attitude to the heritage language. The entire corpus of interviews was transcribed and analyzed using qualitative research conventions and methods.

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