Date of Award

8-2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Kristina Wirtz

Second Advisor

Dr. Ann Miles

Third Advisor

Dr. Bilinda Straight

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

The purpose of my research is to determine how elderly Dutch female immigrants in Michigan view the importance of preserving their native language and passing it on to their children after they immigrated. What do these immigrants now believe motivated them to continue, partially continue, or completely stop using their original language at different stages oftheir lives? What meaning do they now attach to their use or non-use of their native language? This research for my Masters Thesis is accomplished through personal in-depth life history interviews with elderly Dutch women in Michigan in retirement centers or in their homes. All ofthe interviewees were born in the Netherlands or had two parents who were born in the Netherlands.

Through the interviews, I find that each of the participants now believes she had her own multiple reasons and circumstances for maintaining or not maintaining the native language. My informants also share many experiences and struggles of immigration but also differ in how they approached these aspects, especially when it comes to the continued use of their mother tongue. My research demonstrates how important national identity remains after immigrating and that people see language as an important attribute of culture.

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