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Multilingual couples using English as a lingua franca: Language practices, attitudes, and identities

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Title: Multilingual couples using English as a lingua franca: Language practices, attitudes, and identities
Author(s): Hyttinen, Saana
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities
Specialisation: General Linguistics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
This thesis explores the language practices, attitudes, and identities of multilingual couples that use English as a lingua franca in the relationship (ELF couples). The goal is to investigate how these couples utilize their multilingual resources and if they report using translanguaging or other language mixing practices. As a part of ELF couples’ language practices, the family language practices of families formed by ELF couples as parents are also addressed. Furthermore, the study aims to find out what kinds of attitudes ELF couples have towards translanguaging, as well as how the use of English as a lingua franca shows in their language identities. Earlier research has shown that translanguaging is an essential part of the use of English as a lingua franca especially in the context of informal social contact and close relationships. However, ELF couples as a target group have been studied little and most of the research so far has been qualitative. The focus in this thesis is quantitative, and the study was conducted using an online questionnaire which received 563 suitable responses. The main findings show that while the primary language used in ELF couples’ conversations is usually English, also the partners’ first languages are used to a varying extent. Translanguaging is present in ELF couples’ language practices also in larger scale, even though varying results regarding this aspect showcase the uniqueness of individual couples’ language practices. Moreover, the couples have positive attitudes towards language mixing in general, and many of them respond to it in a relaxed manner. Regarding ELF couples’ language identities, the data shows that the couples often identify themselves as English-speakers but also multilinguals, both individually and as a couple. Consequently, English as a lingua franca seems to have an important role in the relationships, and many of the couples report difficulties in attempts or even unwillingness to change the main language of the relationship to something else than English after having started the relationship using English as a lingua franca. The results also show that language mixing is used much less in the family context when addressing children, and that children seem to be one of the main triggers for more conscious language practices.
Keyword(s): English as a lingua franca ELF couples language practices language attitudes language identity multilingualism translanguaging

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