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Language maintenance and shift among Iranians residing in the United States

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Hedieh Najafi
Abstract:
This study examines the state of the maintenance of Persian language among Iranians in the United States. This study is important for two reasons. First, this study is the first in its kind to examine the data from secondary sources such as U.S. Census data, Homeland Security, and the American Community Survey to shed some light on the state of language maintenance or shift among the members of the Iranian community residing in the U.S. Second, considering the number of Persian speakers in the U.S. and the lack of considerable amount of research on this community, this study is of importance and of high contribution to the field.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF TABLES viii LIST OF FIGURES ix CHAPTER 1. ITRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW 1 Motivation for the Study 1 Importance of the Study 2 Overview of the Study 2 Research Questions 4 Discussion of the Key Terms 5 Limitations 5 Delimitations 6 2. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK 8 Language Maintenance and Shift - a Literature Review 8 Language Maintenance and Shift Among Iranians in the U.S. - Theory 13 3. METHODS OF INQUIRY 16 Methods of Inquiry- a Literature Review 16 Data Collection Instruments and Procedures -2007 Survey of Iranians 17 iv

Page 4. PERSIAN LANGUAGE AND HISTORY 20 Language Persian or Farsi? 20 The History of Persian Language 21 Persian language 21 Persian script 23 Persian and Language Policies 25 Persian and Language Policies in Iran 25 Persian in Afghanistan 27 Persian in Tajikistan 28 Persian in the Sub-continent of India 29 Persian the Language of Elites 29 Persian a Second/ Foreign/ Minority Language 29 Academy of Persian Language and Literature 30 5. HISTORY AND CURRENT STATUS OF IRANIANS IN THE U.S 32 Demographic Analysis of Current Iranian Population in the U.S 32 Mode of Incorporation 33 The Number of Iranians Residing in the U.S 37 Linguistic Characteristics of Iranians Residing in the U.S 39 Linguistic Characteristics of Iranians 39 v

Page Iranians and Their Language in the U.S 39 Education in Iran and its (Potential) Effects on the Maintenance of Persian Language in the Iranian Community in the U.S 40 The Maintenance of Persian among Iranians in the U.S 44 The Status of Iranians in the U.S 46 Attitudes of the Dominant Group 46 The Case of Iowa 47 Contemporary Relations of Iranians Residing in the U.S....54 Iran's Interest in the Iranian Community in the U.S 55 6. GENERAL IMPRESSIONS: PERSIAN MAINTENANCE AMONG IRANIANS RESIDING IN THE U.S 57 The 2007 Iranian Survey vs. U.S. Census 2000 57 Language Maintenance among the Second Generation of Iranians in the U.S. (2007 Iranian Survey) 60 Understanding Persian among the Second Generation of Iranians 60 Speaking Persian among the Second Generation of Iranians 77 Persian Reading Abilities among the Second Generation of Iranians 94 vi

Page Persian Writing Abilities among the Second Generation of Iranians 113 The Maintenance of Persian Language among the First Generation of Iranians 133 7. CONCLUSION 159 Language Maintenance 159 First Generation 159 Second Generation 161 Implications for Education 162 National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) 163 The Language Flagship 163 Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) 164 Persian Flagship Programs 165 Implications for Teaching/Maintaining the Persian Language 166 Concluding Observation 168 Areas for Further Research 169 REFERENCES 173 vii

LIST OF TABLES Table Page 1. Iranians entering the U.S 35 2. Professional immigrants in the U.S. (1970-1975) 36 3. The education level of Iranians in the U.S. in years 1980 and 1990 37 4. University students in Iran 42 5. School Enrollment 51 6. Financial situation of Iranians 52 7. Comparison of U.S. Census 2000 and 2007 Iranian survey 57 8. Iranian U.S. born: U.S. Census 2000 and 2007 Iranian Survey 59 9. Persian understanding skills 61 10. Persian understanding skills and parent's place of birth 62 11. Persian understanding skills and their place of birth 64 12. Persian understanding skills and spouse's nationality 66 13. Persian understanding skills and parent's schooling years in Iran 68 14. Persian understanding skills and parent's last degree 70 15. Persian understanding skills and parent's entrance year to the U.S 72 16. Persian understanding skills and Persian reading hours 74 17. Persian understanding skills and hours watching Persian programs 76 18. Persian speaking skills 77 19. Persian speaking skills and parent's place of birth 79 20. Persian speaking skills and children's place of birth 81 21. Persian speaking skills and spouse's nationality 82 viii

Table Page 22. Persian speaking skills and parent's schooling years in Iran 84 23. Persian speaking skills and parent's last degree 86 24. Persian speaking skills and parent's entrance year to the U.S 88 25. Persian speaking skills and Persian reading hours 91 26. Persian speaking skills and hours watching Persian programs 93 27. Persian reading skills 95 28. Persian reading skills and parent's place of birth 96 29. Persian reading skills and children's place of birth 98 30. Persian reading skills and spouse's nationality 100 31 .Persian reading skills and parent's schooling years in Iran 102 32. Persian reading skills and parent's last degree 104 33. Persian reading skills parent's entrance year to the U.S 106 34. Persian reading skills and Persian reading hours 110 3 5. Persian reading skills and hours watching Persian programs 112 36. Persian writing skills 114 37. Persian writing skills and parent's place of birth 115 38. Persian writing skills and their place of birth 117 39. Persian writing skills and spouse's nationality 119 40. Persian writing skills and parent's schooling years in Iran 121 41. Persian writing skills and parent's last degree 123 42. Persian writing skills and parent's entrance year to the U.S 125 43. Persian reading skills and hours reading Persian 130 ix

Table Page 44. Persian writing skills and hours watching Persian programs 132 45. Hours reading Persian 133 46. Hours watching Persian programs 134 47. Hours reading Persian and place of birth 136 48. Hours reading Persian and spouse's nationality 138 49. Hours reading Persian and schooling years in Iran 140 50. Hours reading Persian and last degree 142 51. Hours reading Persian and entrance year to the U.S 145 52. Hours watching Persian programs and place of birth 149 53. Hours watching Persian programs and spouse's nationality 151 54. Hours watching Persian programs and schooling years in the U.S 153 55. Hours watching Persian programs and last degree 155 56. Hours watching Persian programs and entrance year to the U.S 158 57. Schooling years in Iran 160 58. FLAP supported language programs 164 x

LIST OF FIGURES Figure Page 1. The map of the countries with Persian as their official language 28 2. Literacy rate among Iranians 42 XI

1 CHAPTER 1- INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW Motivation for the Study Language researchers have long been concerned and occupied with the issue of language shift and language maintenance in the U.S. Previously they were more concerned to prove that language shift did occur, and it did at a rapid rate, three generations maximum, all regardless of the country or language of origin (see Glazer, 1966). Today, however, there has been a "shift" in the presentation of research. Researchers still seek to prove that language shift occurs at a rapid rate, if not faster than ever, but they prove it to their regret. Researchers try to warn policymakers that immigrant languages are not being maintained, and that this national resource is going to waste at a rapid rate, three generations maximum. (Lopez, 1978; Nicolau and Valdivieso, 1988; Veltman, 1988; Pease-Alvarez, 1993) As an advocate of language as a resource and not a problem, I find the issue of language maintenance and shift of considerable importance in a society such as the United States. Furthermore, considering that Persian is among the top twenty largest languages in the United States according to U.S. Census 2000, (see Wiley, 2005), it is of relevance to U.S. policymakers to have information on the maintenance state of this language in the U.S.

2 Importance of the Study Persian is the seventeenth largest language in the U.S., and the Iranian community ranks third in the percentage of high status professionals in the U.S. (See Rumbaut, in press). Nonetheless, the research on this community, their language, and their issues are particularly limited. While this signals a more complicated issue, it makes this community and their issues more desired subjects to be studied. This study is particularly important in that it is the first in its kind to cover the issue of language maintenance and shift among Iranians in the U.S. Like many other languages in the world, dead or alive, Persian has been affected by many historical events. These events have sometimes led to the rise, cultivation, and promotion of this language and sometimes to its becoming banned from the courts, from the countries, and from the libraries.* Nonetheless, Persian though so soft to the ear is tough enough in nature. It has survived many attacks and found its way to the modern world. Albeit, has this language been able to keep grounds in the U.S. under the multi dimensional pressures of English? Overview of the Study This study examines the maintenance/shift state of Persian among Iranians residing in the United States. However, in order to be able to examine the state of this language * Alexander the Great burnt the libraries in Persia (Iran) in 330 B.C.

3 locally, in the U.S., it is essential to first be aware of the status of Persian language historically and internationally. It is important to know, for instance, if Persian, animmigrant language in the U.S., is an official language elsewhere, or is a minority language. Has Persian survived counter-Persian policies, or have there never been any counter-Persian policies in the history of this language? Therefore, one chapter is dedicated to answering the historical questions regarding this language. Chapter two, while presenting the literature reviews on language maintenance and shift, clarifies the conceptual framework of this study. Chapter three is a discussion of methods of inquiry appropriate for this study. Chapter four is devoted to the history of the Persian language and the language policies relevant to Persian in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran, in particular. Chapter five concentrates on the history and status of Iranians in the U.S. The history and socio economic status of Iranians are relevant to this study for different reasons. For example, language maintenance and shift do not only depend on in-group pro-maintenance factors, they also depend on the socio-counter-factors imposed overtly or covertly on the language communities. Thus, it becomes of primary relevance to this study to know the answer to questions such as: Have Iranians ever been the target of systematic discrimination by the dominant society? Socio-economically, are they considered successful, or are they stigmatized as unsuccessful citizens? Where are they mostly concentrated, in rural or urban areas?

4 Chapter six discusses and analyzes the results of my study, meaning it discusses the results of the maintenance of the Persian language among the second and first generation of Iranians. Chapter seven is the last chapter of this dissertation, and it discusses some conclusions as well as the implications of this study for education in the U.S. Research Questions This study was designed to investigate a major question while addressing several sub questions, which follow. • What is the current state of Persian language maintenance or shift to English among the members of this language community in the U.S.? • To what extent is Persian being maintained? • Is Persian being maintained as an oral language and/or as a literate language? • Is Persian transferred to the next generations or is maintenance within the first generation only? • What are the history, historical importance, and status of Persian that may be a factor for people advocating for retention and maintenance of this language.

5 Discussion of the Key Terms • The language of Iranians in this study is exclusively referred to as Persian unless stated otherwise. The choice of the term "Persian" over the term "Farsi" will be explained in later chapters. • The language that is referred to as Persian is the Tehran Standard spoken Persian, in contrast to not only Afghanistan and Tajikistan Persian varieties, but also in contrast to Persian varieties spoken in other cities in Iran. The emphasis on spoken is due to the irrelevancy of Tehran Standard for written Persian as there is only one written standard for Persian. • The people of Iran and people of Iranian ancestry are referred to as Iranians unless otherwise stated. This choice is to include all Iranians regardless of their original ethnicity of being Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Gilak, and Arab, just to name a few. Limitations There are some limitations to this study. First, the questions from the secondary sources used in this study were not originally designed for linguistic purposes. Second, the 2000 Census data do not necessarily represent the real number of people of Iranian ancestry in the nation due to the nature of the questions regarding ethnicity and race. Third, this study is conducted in 2008 and 2009, but it has used U.S. Census data from 2000 and the American Community Survey of 2006.The span of eight years is long enough a span to view changes in the numbers of this community as well as their

6 numbers regarding their language. Furthermore, the years of 2000 to 2008 mark important historical and political events in the history of the United States of America that are not without significant effects on the Iranian community residing in the U.S.* It is also worth noting that since Persian in the U.S. has not been the subject of many studies, particularly on the issue of language maintenance and shift, I had no choice but to use studies on other U.S. immigrant languages as the backbone and guidance for this study. Delimitations The delimitations to this study are as follows. Ideally, the research on Persian maintenance should be done in California where about 56% of all foreign born Iranians and 46% of all foreign born Afghans live (U.S. Census 2000). However, this study has used the U.S. Census data for this purpose as research on the Persian speaking community in California was not feasible for the researcher. Also, in the 2007-survey of Iranians the majority of the respondents lived in Phoenix, Arizona. This was due to the fact that the researcher had been able to make connections in this area versus a city such as Los Angeles/California with higher concentrations of Persian speakers. Therefore, the data regarding Persian maintenance from the 2007-survey of Iranians are not * Events such as 9/11 (2001), the invasion of Afghanistan (Oct.7, 2001), and the invasion of Iraq (March 20, 2003) are directly related to the Moslem communities in the U.S., hence to the way they respond to the questions in U.S. Census survey. Iranians and Persian speakers are no exceptions in this regard.

7 representative of the language maintenance patterns of places with higher concentrations of Persian speakers, rather they are more representative of language maintenance patterns in places with lower concentrations of Persian speakers. Also, due to the high costs of language skills tests in Persian, this study has relied on the self-reported data on language skills in Persian.

8 CHAPTER 2- CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK Language Maintenance and Shift - A Literature Review Although some researchers have touched on the issue of language maintenance among Iranians in the United States, there has not been any work directly related to the state of language shift or maintenance among this community. Modarresi (2000), in his research on Iranians in the U.S., has stated that Iranians introduce their language to the next generation by sending them to Persian classes, exposing them to Persian media, and exposing them to Persian press. However, his article is not concerned with the extent to which Persian is transferred to the next generation, or how many generations it will take for Persian to lose grounds to English. In a different work, S. Mahootian (1996) has looked at code-switching between Persian and English. However, her approach to this phenomenon is absolutely linguistic and irrelevant to code-switching as a step in language shift for S. Gal (For more details see p.47). Therefore, studies on other immigrant language communities, maintenance, and shift are used as the bedrock for this study of language maintenance among Iranians. Although the issues of language maintenance and language shift had been implicitly or explicitly discussed (for example, Robert E. Park 1922 and Haugen 1946), Fishman (1966) was the first to examine these issues by positioning them in a sociolinguistic setting. His notion of language shift and language maintenance has not really changed much over time. In his Language Loyalty in the United States (1966) he first, informed

9 the readers of how ignorant Americans were of the issues of immigrants, their languages, their cultures, and their maintenance efforts. He acknowledged that only when the existence of other languages in the U.S. was recognized that other questions could be raised and answered, questions such as the stage of language maintenance or shift, measures taken by the language community, and the investigation of deterrent factors to language maintenance. He then explained that languages could be divided into three major groups in the U.S. 1. Indigenous or native, 2. Colonial languages, and 3. Immigrant languages. Narrowing down his categorization of languages, immigrant languages, in particular, have been dealing with the phenomena of language maintenance and language shift. According to Fishman (1989) the minority language is under pressure from the majority/dominant language, and this leads to a downward motion for the language. The language becomes smaller in number of "native" users and the proficiency of the users. Later, Baker (2001) explained that, "Usually language shift is used in the language planning literature to refer to a downwards language movement. That is there is a reduction in the number of speakers in the population, a loss in language proficiency or a decreasing use of that language in different domains. The last stages of language shift are called language death (p54). According to Baker usually "language maintenance refers to relative language stability in number and distribution of its speaker, its proficient usage by children and adults, and its retention in specific domains (e.g. home, school, religion.)" (2001, p.59)

10 Nathan Glazer (1966) maintained that five factors played important roles in the maintenance of language among the U.S. immigrants. He listed them as : "the time of immigration, the spatial pattern of settlement, the social structure of the immigrant group (in particular the role of professional, intellectual, and middle-class elements within it), and the role of religion" as well as "the degree of ideological mobilization in the group." (p.365) He further stated that the American civilization itself was a basic counter- maintenance factor for maintaining the immigrant language (p. 366). Furthermore, he stated that factors such as mass culture, mass free education, the openness of American politics, and economy have played important counter-maintenance roles too. Although Husband and Khan (1982) criticized the model of language shift and vitality of Giles, Bouhris, and Taylor (1977) quoted in Baker 2001 because they found their suggested factors to be interrelated at times, and many of their social factors to be difficult to measure, it is worthy to consider their list briefly. Their three factor model suggested: that the combination of status factors, demographic factors, and institutional support factors gave minority language vitality. For example, the status of a language being super ordinate or subordinate, symbolic or instrumental would play a role in its vitality. Also, the distribution of speakers, their saturation in different regions, and the demographic facts regarding the biliterate bilinguals were stated as examples for demographic factors. Administrative services, educational institutions, and community support were examples for institutional supports.

11 For Susan Gal (1979), who did a study of Oberwart Austria between Hungarian and German languages, language shift is about "choice'. " It holds as well for many in the youngest generation, those for whom the language shift is almost complete. They have become industrial workers and signify their status by invariably choosing German in most situations." (p. 20) It appears that Susan Gal has referred to Fishman's diglossia, when she referred to using German instead of Hungarian in certain domains that previously belonged to Hungarian. She expressed language shift or the process of language shift as the replacement of a minority language by a dominant language in a domain previously belonging to the minority language. She explained how overtime fewer younger people would use German in domains that were previously Hungarian domains. Also, she referred to a stage where people would switch from one language to another language depending on the domain and the audience. Even though, in this stage bilingualism is acknowledged, this stage probably corresponds mostly with today's notion of code- switching. Therefore, for Gal code-switching is a step in the process of language shift. Pease-Alvarez (1993) found the research on language shift anything but flawless. She maintained that the flaw centered on the definition of language shift. She attested that while other researchers did not bring into consideration the different components of language shift, in her study of Mexican-descent children she brought into account these components. She contended that language proficiency, language choice, attitude toward language and the culture associated with a particular language, and the relationships that

12 existed across these components would result in a more appropriate view of language shift. On the other hand Veltman (1983) had an alternative way of explaining language shift. He explained it by the process of Anglicization. First, he explained four stages of Anglicization or language shift. The first stage was monolingualism of mother tongue. In this stage, as clear from its name, the person would only speak his mother tongue. The next stage was what Veltman called simple bilingualism; the person would speak both languages although fluency in his mother tongue was as much as in English. Stage three or English bilingualism referred to a stage where the person was bilingual; however, his fluency was more or more apparent in English. And the last stage was monolingual English where the person did not speak his mother tongue and only spoke English. At this stage the person had abandoned his mother tongue i.e. he became a language emigrant. According to Veltman stages 3 and 4 were equally considered language shift because in both stages the parents would raise their children in English, hence English mother tongue. Also, persons in stage three would not participate regularly in their mother tongue community. Moreover, he maintained that language shift and age were related. After 30-35 the rate of language shift was to be stabilized. Most shifts occurred between 5-7 to 30-35 marking the events of entering school, college, getting married, and having jobs. At the end in 2000 Veltman concluded that "The desire of immigrants in all minority language groups to learn English and make this language their own is sufficiently high to

13 produce the kind of outcome that most Americans cherish, that is that immigrants become English speaking people. I unequivocally demonstrate that rates of language shift to English are so high that all minority languages are routinely abandoned, depriving the USA of one type of human resource that may be economically and politically desirable both to maintain and develop." (Veltman, 2000, p. 58.) Language Maintenance and Shift Among Iranians in the U.S.- Theory There are some problems with Veltman's definition of language shift. First, there is an assumption on the normality of monolingualism and an abnormality of bilingualism or multilingualism, for that matter. His four language shift stages start from a monolingual stage and end in another monolingual stage. There is no value or legitimacy for the stages where the person is bilingual. Furthermore, Wiley (2005) criticizes Veltman's language shift definition as being "so intentionally stringent that the bi of bilingualism does not count" (p.28). Second, according to Veltman stages 3 and 4 are equally considered language shift because in both stages the parents raise their children in English, hence English mother tongue for the next generation. Although for persons in stage four it might be the case that they have completely shifted to (the dominant language in this case) English, this is not the case for persons in stage three, where they still have competency and fluency in their mother tongue as well as English. Although this might not be the case for many of the persons in stage three; it can be the case for a few; many people in stage three have no choice but to "choose" English as the language they use most and most often. They are

14 living in the U.S., working and/or studying in the dominant society, they take the public transportation in the dominant society, and in short they are living and interacting in and with the dominant society. They have no choice but to "choose" English as their most frequently used language. Nonetheless, this does not mean that they never use their mother tongues, or that they will not raise their children in their own mother tongue. It might be true that because they have been assimilated in the main stream society, they don't have the time to participate in the activities of their own community, but this does not mean that they will not claim their mother tongue as a property that they own in the Census, for example. Furthermore, Veltman, does not consider the fact that, although not for everyone, but for many, language attitudes change when the person becomes a parent. The bilingual person might not care to interact with her language community as she does not feel the need. However, when she becomes a parent, she might very well start connecting with her community in order to have the language support of the community for the up rearing of her child. Therefore, in this study, I will consider language shift only when the language has not been claimed by the person of Iranian ancestry as a language that she possesses. If the person speaks English as well as Persian or vice versa, I will still consider her Persian to have been maintained. Also, I will include multilingualism/bilingualism as normal states by considering the fact that not all Iranians were monolingual speakers of Persian at the time of their entrance to the U.S. Consequently, possibly they might have had more than one "mother tongue" when growing up.

15 In summary, although I believe it is important to know how Iranians introduce Persian to the next generation, I find it essential to first know: • What is the current state of Persian language maintenance or shift to English among the members of this community in the U.S.? and • To what extent is Persian being maintained? • Is Persian being maintained as an oral language or as a literate language? • Does Persian get transmitted to the next generations, or the maintenance is within the first generation only? • What are the history, historical importance, and status of Persian that maybe a factor for people considering to retain and maintain this language.

16 CHAPTER 3- METHODS OF INQUIRY Methods of Inquiry-A Literature Review In the area of language maintenance and shift, Fishman et al. (1966) in Language Loyalty in the United States studied these phenomena in the American society using U.S. census data. Furthermore, Veltman's Language Shift in the United States (1983) used the Survey of Income and Education. In both of these studies an already existing set of data was used to analyze the state of language shift or maintenance among the members of different language communities. "These works have the advantage of considering numerous ethnic groups and languages in contact with English, but they have the disadvantage of relying on survey questions designed for purposes other than linguistic research." (Robert W. Schrauf, 1999, p. 176) On the other hand, a work such as Portes and Schauffler's (1994) study of Spanish, Haitian Creole, and West Indies enjoys the advantage of more internal reliability as survey questions were designed specifically for a particular ethnic or language group. For my study of Persian maintenance and shift among Iranians in the United States; however, I have mainly relied on the analysis of a survey that I conducted in 2007. The questions of this survey were originally designed having this study in mind. Therefore, the above criticism would not apply to this study; meaning that the language questions of this survey were originally designed for linguistic purposes. Nonetheless, due to budget

17 reasons, this study relied on self reported data regarding the Persian language skills of the respondents. Furthermore, secondary data available from sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Homeland Security, and American Community Survey were used as a background and complement to this study. Data Collection Instruments and Procedures-Survey of Iranians 2007 In 2007,1 developed and conducted a survey with 112 respondents (56 adult -over 18 years of age- men and 56 adult women). These respondents were reached through the Iranian association in Phoenix/ Arizona, Persian New Year gatherings, and Iranian networks. Out of the 118 questionnaires that were originally distributed, three were never returned, and three were answered by ineligible respondents (ex: under 18 and not of Iranian ancestry). Although the sample was not a random sample, it did cover a wide range of Iranians regarding age groups, education levels, ethnicity and language groups, and religious affiliations. Whereas some of the respondents lived in California, Texas, and Washington D.C., at the time of the survey, the majority of the respondents lived in Arizona. This survey was the expansion of a pilot survey originally conducted in 2005. Later, the data were entered in the SPSS version 15 software, that allowed easy analysis of the data as well as cross-tabulation of the data.

Full document contains 188 pages
Abstract: This study examines the state of the maintenance of Persian language among Iranians in the United States. This study is important for two reasons. First, this study is the first in its kind to examine the data from secondary sources such as U.S. Census data, Homeland Security, and the American Community Survey to shed some light on the state of language maintenance or shift among the members of the Iranian community residing in the U.S. Second, considering the number of Persian speakers in the U.S. and the lack of considerable amount of research on this community, this study is of importance and of high contribution to the field.