Retirement as a “language related major life event” and its consequences on the multilingualism of migrants

Krakenberger, Etna Rosa (23 August 2012). Retirement as a “language related major life event” and its consequences on the multilingualism of migrants (Unpublished). In: Sociolinguistics Symposium 19. Berlin. 21-24.08.2012.

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The present study investigates life stories of established Italian workforce migrants living in the city of Berne, Switzerland, in regard to “language related major life events” (De Bot, 2007). These events are important in terms of changes happening in the linguistic setting during the life span and influence language development. In this sense, during the process of retirement, a new phase of life begins, which, amongst other things, has to be reorganized in relation to social contact and language use.

One of my main questions is how the subjects handle the changes happening within and after the process of retirement in respect to the use of different languages and how this “language related major life event” is constructed and described by the migrants. One of these changes happens due to the fact that, after retirement, the social network at the workplace (the primary source of language input) can get (partially) lost and with it, the use of the local language. The fact that migrants living in Berne are confronted with diglossia (Standard German and Swissgerman), that the Canton of Berne is bilingual (German and French) and that the migrants' mother tongue (Italian) is one of the Swiss national languages, makes this question even more interesting. A second question will consider the influence of the fact that most of the subjects in question lived with the idea of return migration, but as shown in a previous study (Alter/Vieillesse/Anziani, NFP 32, 1999), only a third returned back while another third remained in the host country and the final third chose the commuting option.

I will first examine these processes, changes and influences by using quantitative questionnaires in order to obtain general information on demographic data, the social situation, and a self-assessment of linguistic skills. Secondly, I will use qualitative interviews to get in-depth information of the subjects’ life stories and language biographies.

The results of this project are meant to deliver insight into different aspects that have not been looked at in detail to this point: which factors of the life stories of Italian workforce migrants, who decided to remain in Switzerland after retirement, influence the linguistic changes in general and the ones happening around retirement in particular.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Italian Language and Literature > Linguistic Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Krakenberger, Etna Rosa


400 Language > 450 Italian, Romanian & related languages




Etna Rosa Krakenberger

Date Deposited:

03 Mar 2015 14:51

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:41


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