New Denmark, Canada: An exceptional case of language maintenance in a Danish immigrant settlement

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Karoline Kühl

The settlement New Denmark in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, founded in 1872 by Danish immigrants, represents an exceptional case of long-time maintenance of immigrant Danish. Based on a mapping of the social networks within a group of 39 New Denmark Canadians of Danish heritage, the community is characterized as a language enclave (Sprachinsel). Diachronic changes in language use is mapped onto changes in community structures by aligning the findings with the framework of verticalization. The paper further pinpoints a number of linguistic features which either by their existence or by their frequency distribution characterize New Denmark Danish as different from North American Danish in general by relying on qualitative and quantitative analyses of the speech produced by 39 speakers (approx. 120,000 tokens). These features include fossilized items from older stages of Danish as well as a number of bilingual verb phrases created by the New Denmark potato growers of Danish heritage. The study of these verb phrases illustrates how a bilingual community exploits pre-existing cross-linguistic similarities of their two languages to the maximum, thus pointing to the interplay of systemic possibilities (the genetic-typological closeness of English and Danish) with sociodemographic factors (a dense network of Danish speakers) and individual speakers’ linguistic choices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Historical Sociolinguistics
ISSN2199-2894
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018

ID: 198414612