Western Papers in Linguistics / Cahiers linguistiques de Western


This is a study of the effects of the almost obligatory pronoun in English in comparison to the pronoun-optional Italian on minority, pronoun-optional Faetar. This paper shows the results of analysis of pro-drop among speakers of the minority language, Faetar, in the Toronto area. The community of Faetar speakers in Toronto emigrated from Italy in the 1950-1970s. Interviews were conducted in 2009-2010 on the speech community in Toronto. Recordings were analyzed from first and second-generation speakers ranging from 30s to 90s in age to study their use of pronouns in casual speech.

The results show that despite a very small speech community in Toronto, Faetar shows only small signs of accommodating to non-prodrop English. This is in comparison to Heap & Nagy’s 1998 study that found a 50% null-subject occurrence in Faetar speakers in Italy (recordings from the early 1990’s). The current study of Toronto’s Faetar community finds a null-subject rate of 42%.

This suggests that the effect of language contact has not been that great, and that despite the small size of the speech community, and the ever-present and accessible English media, Faetar speakers have continued to maintain their language as the way it was spoken when the first-generation speakers arrived, and how it is spoken still in Italy.

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