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Language socialization and ensuing identity construction among Ethiopian immigrants in metropolitan Denver

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Weldu Michael Weldeyesus
Abstract:
The purpose of this dissertation was to conduct a sociocultural linguistic study on Ethiopian immigrants in the Denver metropolis. It specifically examined language practice of Ethiopian immigrants at home and in church. The study centered on three Ethiopian Orthodox parish churches, taken as separate communities of practice. The study was informed by theoretical considerations from three interrelated areas of linguistics, namely, language and identity, language socialization, and language contact. Five methods of data collection were employed: participant observation, video recordings of liturgical services, interviews, recordings of naturally occurring conversations, and a survey. The language practice of Ethiopian immigrants is influenced largely by their close-knit network and beliefs about the role language plays in defining their identity. While first-generation Ethiopian immigrants tend to maintain their native languages, their children tend to be monolingual in English. Frequent use of native languages and close-knit network among the first generation hinder their proficiency in English, which in turn influences their socialization into mainstream society. In addition, Ethiopian immigrants use narratives to construct their identity by contrasting a more socialized current self with a less socialized former self. The parish churches play a prominent role in helping the first generation practice their faith, and maintain their native languages and culture. They also teach the second generation Ethiopian history, culture, and language. Language practice in the churches raises the issue of choosing Ge'ez or Amharic for the liturgy. Despite their limited knowledge, the clergy and the majority of the laity favored the continued use of Ge'ez. The parish churches differ in their affiliation to a synod in Ethiopia (Kidane-Mehret and Medhane-Alem) or in exile (Kidist-Mariam). On a tradition-modernity continuum, Kidist Mariam falls on the modernity end, Medhane-Alem on the tradition end, while Kidane-Mehret lies somewhere in between. These emerging differences may have serious implications for the future unity of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In addition to contributing to the body of scholarship in sociocultural linguistics, this dissertation is a modest contribution to the dearth of research on Ethiopian immigrants in the diaspora. It can also have practical significance for Ethiopian immigrants in the United States.

Table of Contents ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................................................... III ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................................................................................................................. IV CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................... 1 1.1 BACKGROUND .............................................................................................................................................. 1 1.2 EXISTING LITERATURE ON ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANTS IN THE U.S. ............................................................................ 6 1.3 HISTORY OF ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANTS IN THE U.S. ............................................................................................ 12 How do Ethiopian immigrants come to the U.S.?................................................................................... 15 1.4 METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK EMPLOYED ................................................................................................... 20 1.5 HISTORY OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX PARISH CHURCHES ............................................................................... 25 Kidist-Mariam Church............................................................................................................................. 28 Kidane-Mehret Church ........................................................................................................................... 30 Medhane-Alem Church ........................................................................................................................... 31 1.6 BODY OF THE DISSERTATION ......................................................................................................................... 34 CHAPTER: TWO: THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS ......................................................................................... 39 2.1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................................... 39 2.2 THE LANGUAGE-IDENTITY NEXUS ................................................................................................................... 39 Identity defined ...................................................................................................................................... 40 Fundamental issues in the discussion of Identity ................................................................................... 42 Identity in sociocultural linguistics ......................................................................................................... 45 2.3 LANGUAGE SOCIALIZATION ........................................................................................................................... 48 Essence and history of language socialization ....................................................................................... 48 Precursors of language socialization ...................................................................................................... 60 Language socialization in monolingual and bilingual contexts .............................................................. 63 2.4 LANGUAGE CONTACT AND IMMIGRANT IDENTITY .............................................................................................. 67 Contact linguistics versus language contact .......................................................................................... 68 Language maintenance versus language shift ....................................................................................... 70 CHAPTER THREE: NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTION OF (ETHIOPIAN) IMMIGRANT IDENTITY ................................ 83 3.1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................................... 83 3.2 COMMONALITIES IN NARRATIVES BY ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANTS ............................................................................ 85 Going back home rhetoric ...................................................................................................................... 86 Preparation for life syndrome ................................................................................................................ 92 Naturalization of Ethiopian immigrants or lack thereof ........................................................................ 95 3.3 POSITIONING THE SELF THROUGH NARRATIVES ................................................................................................. 98 3.4 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................................... 114 CHAPTER FOUR: (ETHIOPIAN) IMMIGRANT LANGUAGE SOCIALIZATION ..................................................... 116 4.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 116 4.2 PARTICIPANTS’ PERCEPTION OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ..................................................................... 118 Participants’ perceptions of former English proficiency ....................................................................... 119 Participants’ perceptions of current English proficiency ...................................................................... 122 What helped improve participants’ English proficiency? ..................................................................... 126 Participants who underrated their English proficiency ........................................................................ 127 Participants’ level of education, length of stay in the U.S., and job uptake ......................................... 128 4.3 FACTORS AFFECTING IMMIGRANTS’ ENGLISH PROFICIENCY ............................................................................... 131 Educational system in Ethiopia ............................................................................................................ 131 No colonial heritage language ............................................................................................................. 133 Participants’ use of native language in the U.S. ................................................................................... 134

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Native language maintenance in the second generation..................................................................... 143 4.4 LINGUISTIC CHALLENGES AND PROBLEMS OF SOCIALIZATION ............................................................................. 148 American English versus British English ............................................................................................... 156 4.5 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................................... 158 CHAPTER FIVE: GE’EZ VERSUS AMHARIC IN CHURCH SERVICES ................................................................... 164 5.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 164 5.2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ......................................................................................................................... 167 5.3 ESSENCE, GOALS AND SECTIONS OF THE LITURGY............................................................................................. 171 5.4 DIFFERENCES OBSERVED IN THE PARISH CHURCHES .......................................................................................... 179 Why two synods and why the split in parish churches ......................................................................... 180 Other differences observed between the parish churches ................................................................... 186 The Lord’s Prayer at Kidane-Mehret and Medhane-Alem churches ..................................................... 193 The Lord’s Prayer at Kidist-Mariam church .......................................................................................... 193 Mary’s Prayer at Kidane-Mehret and Medhane-Alem churches .......................................................... 195 Mary’s Prayer at Kidist-Mariam Church ............................................................................................... 195 5.5 USE OF GE’EZ IN THE LITURGY ..................................................................................................................... 197 Participants’ perception regarding use of Ge’ez in church services ..................................................... 206 5.6 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND IMPLICATIONS .............................................................................................. 212 CHAPTER SIX: EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIALIZATION FUNCTIONS OF ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX PARISH CHURCHES .................................................................................................................................................. 214 6.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 214 6.3 PARISH CHURCHES AS CENTERS OF SOCIALIZATION .......................................................................................... 217 6.4 PARISH CHURCHES AS EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS ......................................................................................... 221 6.4.1 Program for children and youth ............................................................................................. 227 6.5 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS ............................................................................................................... 251 CHAPTER SEVEN: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND DIRECTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH .......................... 256 7.1 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................................... 256 7.2 DIRECTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH ........................................................................................................... 263 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................................................ 267 APPENDICES ................................................................................................................................................ 277 APPENDIX A: TRANSCRIPTION CONVENTIONS .......................................................................................................... 277 APPENDIX B: SURVEY FOR PARISHIONERS ............................................................................................................... 278 APPENDIX C: ETHIOPIC SYLLABARY ........................................................................................................................ 282

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List of Tables

Table 1: .................................................................................................................................... 14 Table 2 ..................................................................................................................................... 18 Table 3 .................................................................................................................................. 120 Table 4 .................................................................................................................................. 122 Table 5 .................................................................................................................................. 134 Table 6 .................................................................................................................................. 135 Table 7 .................................................................................................................................. 138 Table 8 .................................................................................................................................. 139 Table 9 .................................................................................................................................. 176 Table 10 ................................................................................................................................ 207 Table 11 ................................................................................................................................ 208

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Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Background

My dissertation project aims to conduct a sociocultural linguistic study on Ethiopian immigrants in the Denver metropolitan area. It is specifically concerned with immigrant language practice, drawing on research experience from three interrelated areas of linguistics, namely, language and identity, language socialization, and language contact. Even though these fields are fairly broad in scope in their own right, they are treated in this research project rather specifically, as I intend to address their import for the study of language practice within the Ethiopian immigrant community. Immigrants leave their native countries and move to others for a variety of reasons, the main one being the search for a better future. The term “immigrant” in this study is understood in its broad sense to include refugees as well. Louise Dabene and Daniele Moore (1995: 18) explain the incentives for immigration (migration is their preferred term) as a combination of “both push and pull factors united to encourage people to leave their homeland for a better future, and the perceived work opportunities and social mobility in the receiving country.” Hence, in an attempt to work and live in a host country, immigrants constantly negotiate and construct their identity. Language socialization and language contact are two of the major factors that affect the constant shaping, reshaping, and construction of immigrant identity. This construction depends on how well the immigrants in question socialize linguistically and culturally, and how well they maintain their native languages or shift to new languages. On the other hand, immigrants will exhibit different social and psychological behaviors as an effect of the processes of language socialization and language maintenance or shift.

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The relationship between language and identity is particularly salient among Ethiopians, both in Ethiopia and in the United States. Ethiopian nationalities and ethnic groups, as well as states are, by and large, defined and delineated on the basis of the languages they speak. Hence, Oromo speakers are referred to as Oromos, Amharic speakers as Amharas, Tigrinya speakers as Tigreans, etc. This tradition transpires in interethnic contact among Ethiopian immigrants in the United States and in the diaspora more generally, and it also appears to apply to other immigrant communities as well. Michael Clyne, who typically conducts his research on immigrant groups in Australia, proposes four primary functions of language in his discussion of community languages 1 . The most important of these functions, he argues, is the way in which language is used as “a means by which people can identify themselves and others” (1991: 3). Likewise, John Edwards (1985: 45), a professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University, Canada, argues that ethnic or national identity is a powerful, sometimes non- rational group attachment, in which language is often considered the central pillar. With group contact, linguistic identity issues become vital. A common challenge immigrants face, especially at the initial stages of their arrival in the United States, among other things, is the acquisition of the English language and the ensuing multitude of problems associated with socialization or lack thereof. When immigrants come to the U.S., they need some degree of proficiency in English in order to be able to interact, at least minimally, with people of the immigrant country and ultimately to integrate (if not assimilate) into the host society. Gillian Stevens (1994), a sociology

1 Clyne uses community languages in favor of other terms like foreign languages, immigrant languages, and ethnic languages, as each of these carry different connotation. The term foreign languages would be unsuitable for languages that are very much part of Australian life; the term migrant languages doesn’t account for their use by Australian-born generations, and ethnic languages ignores the use of community languages by members of other ethnic groups (1991: 3).

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professor whose research field is social demography, asserts that proficiency in English is not only desirable to immigrants for social functions, it is also necessary for entry into American political and economic life on practical grounds. Yet language characteristics and proficiency in English are normally not stipulated as a condition of entry for immigrants (Leibowitz 1984). Consequently, once in the host country, immigrants encounter social, economic, and even political challenges that are often attributed to the lack of proficiency in the language of the host country (Sandra McKay 2000). A significant number of immigrants may not have a working knowledge of the English language, even as rudimentary and basic as interpersonal and everyday communication skills. For such immigrants, it is a matter of learning a new language as adults, which can be a very frustrating experience. For my dissertation, I have conducted a study on Ethiopian immigrants, typically those who speak Tigrinya and/or Amharic, with the purpose of getting a better understanding of their language practices and how they function in U.S. society in general and in the Denver metropolitan area in particular. This was done by bringing together research and scholarship in the three areas of linguistics outlined above. It is my contention that treating these fields together will yield better results with respect to the study of immigrants than treating them in isolation, as was the case in past research conducted on other immigrant communities (see articles in edited volumes by McKay and Wong 2000, and Robert Bayley and Sandra Schecter 2003). What is more, there are a few studies conducted on Ethiopian immigrants beyond the realm of linguistic or sociolinguistic studies. This fact was corroborated by a telephone conversation I conducted with the Ethiopian consul general in Los Angeles. Eshete (2003) asserts that research on the implications of the Ethiopian diaspora has attracted the attention of only a limited number of scholars in contrast with the number of scholars who have studied other immigrant communities from other developing

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countries. The dearth of research applies to other immigrant communities from other African countries as well (Konadu-Agyemang and Takyi 2006; Takyi, Konadu-Agyemang and Arthur 2006; Kwaye-Nuako 2006; Takyi 2002). Research and scholarship on Ethiopian immigrants in the U.S. that I accessed through interlibrary loan is reviewed in the next section of this chapter. In terms of immigration volume from Africa, Ethiopia stands next to Nigeria with respect to immigrants legally admitted to the United States between 1986 and 2002. The number of immigrants from Nigeria was 114,197; the number from Ethiopia 83,124, 2 and the number from Egypt, 79,633 (Peter H. Gebre 2004: p. 8). Immigrants from these three countries combined constitute about 40% of the total entrants from Africa. This fact makes scholarly sociocultural linguistic research on Ethiopian immigrants crucial. A study on the Ethiopian immigrant population sheds light not only on the Ethiopian immigrant community, but also on immigration from the African continent to the United States more generally. In addition to contributing to the body of scholarship in the field of sociocultural linguistics with an emphasis on immigrant communities, my research project will also have practical significance for the Ethiopian immigrant population in the United States. Even though first-generation immigrants are predisposed to maintain their native language and culture, second-generation immigrants tend to lose their native language and shift in favor of the language of the host country, as it becomes their primary language. My research shows that even though parents are very concerned about native language loss on the part of their children, most of them are not observed doing anything substantial to avert the tendency of native language attrition and enable their children to maintain their native language. The

2 Ethiopia is also the second most populous country in Africa following Nigeria. According to 2007 census data released toward the end of 2008, the Ethiopian population has reached 77 million.

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results of this research project will be informative in this direction as well. The Ethiopian Consulate General in Los Angeles has also shown interest in my work and expressed a fervent desire to have access to the results of my dissertation project. Literature on the language-identity nexus stipulates that language and identity are inseparable and the influence between them is bi-directional. The purpose of my project with respect to this assertion was threefold. First, I studied the disparity that exists between two aspects of the self, that is, between what I call a less socialized former self (more Ethiopian inclined identity) and a more socialized current self (more Americanized identity). I used narratives of personal experience told by Ethiopian immigrants as data for this portion of my dissertation, examining how narrators of a story use language to distance their present self from their former less socialized self. Second, I examined the distinctions between parents’ and children’s perceptions of immigrant identity. Even if first-generation Ethiopian immigrants strongly adhere to their Ethiopian identity, their children (second-generation Ethiopian immigrants) show a strong American identity, as they were born and raised in the United States. Third, I studied the way Ethiopian immigrants position themselves in contrast to other members of mainstream American society. The languages spoken and cultural values practiced by the subjects of the study and the larger target population vary greatly, and this variation can have its own impact on the identity that immigrants construct. While the overarching purpose of my dissertation was to examine language practice within the Ethiopian immigrant community, I attempted to explore the following specific questions in my research: What does language use among Ethiopian immigrants in the Denver metropolitan area look like, specifically in the home and in places of worship? What problems of socialization do Ethiopian immigrants encounter due to their language use? How does language socialization in the home and in places of worship

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influence the identity that Ethiopian immigrants construct? What are the impacts of language contact on both first-generation and second-generation Ethiopian immigrants and the resultant intergenerational interaction? How does social network among Ethiopian immigrants influence the maintenance of their native languages and their Ethiopian identity while they integrate into mainstream society? How does the home contribute to native language maintenance and preservation of immigrant culture? To what extent do places of worship play a role as cultural and heritage centers and contribute to native language maintenance of Ethiopian immigrants? These were the major questions that I addressed in my dissertation project.

1.2 Existing literature on Ethiopian immigrants in the U.S.

I managed to obtain a couple of books and a few dissertations or theses focusing on some aspects of Ethiopian immigrants in the United States. The two most comprehensive books on Ethiopian immigrants are Solomon Addis Getahun’s The History of Ethiopian Immigrants and Refugees in America, 1900–2000: Patterns of Migration, Survival, and Adjustment (2007) and Taddese Wolde Giorgis’ Y ´ M ˆ/ rabawyan S ˆ l ˆ t’t’anenna Ityop’iyawyan B ´/ amerika: Mahb ´ rawinna S ˆ n ´ l ˆ bbonawi T ˆ n ˆ ttane (Western Civilization and Ethiopians in America: [Sociological and Psychological Analysis] (2006) written in Amharic. Getahun’s book, which came out of his PhD dissertation (2005), is partly a historical and partly a sociological study beginning with Ethiopian-American relations and early migration of Ethiopians to America spanning 1903–1974. It also discusses the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution and its impact on the influx of Ethiopian refugees through the Sudan to the United States, from the 1970s through the 1990s. Getahun discusses the ethnic, regional

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and class differences, and generation gaps among Ethiopian immigrants once they are in the U.S., followed by the process of adjustment, typically the establishment of community organizations. While these discussions focus mainly on Ethiopian immigrants in the United States, Getahun devotes two chapters to the impact of Ethiopian Americans on Ethiopia and diaspora politics along with its legacy and the second generation of Ethiopians. This book is the most comprehensive, well researched, and well written book on Ethiopian immigrants in the United States to date. It has laid a solid foundation for subsequent research on people of Ethiopian origin in the United States in particular and in the diaspora more generally. Wolde Giorgis’ book, on the other hand, written in Amharic, focuses on various aspects of life of the Ethiopian diaspora. He begins by discussing the concept of civilization in general followed by a juxtaposition of Western civilization and Ethiopian civilization in particular. In fact, the cover page picture speaks volumes: the Statue of Liberty and the Obelisk in Axum (carved out of a solid rock in northern Ethiopia) are depicted side by side, showing Ethiopia’s ancient civilization. The author also talks about the psychology of the American society and the Ethiopian culture within the U.S. society followed by cultural conflict of the second-generation. Wolde Giorgis further discusses Ethiopian community associations in the U.S. and diasporic life along with ensuing behavioral changes. Ethiopian women in the U.S., family formation, and child upbringing are other topics presented. The Ethiopian Orthodox and Ethiopian Evangelical churches in the U.S. are also discussed. The author closes the book by discussing educational opportunities and Ethiopian immigrants in the U.S. and the prospects of Ethiopians in the United States. The author claims that he presents the book to trigger discussion among Ethiopian immigrants who have been at loggerheads due to the division along religious, ethnic, and political lines. He wrote the book in Amharic to make it

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accessible to the majority of Ethiopian immigrants who are not proficient enough to read books in English. Tibebe Eshete (2003), in his review of Wolde Giorgis’ book, begins by noting the little attention given to scholarly study on Ethiopian immigrants in comparison with immigrants from other Third World countries. He also highlights some of the questions that Wolde Giorgis addresses in his book: “How are Ethiopians negotiating their identities and adjusting to the environments they encounter in their newfound lands? How are Ethiopian immigrants affecting the societies in which they live? How do the democratic environments in which they live contribute to the reshaping of political discourse at home? How are the Ethiopians immigrating to the United States under the Diversity Visa category faring?” (p. 196). Eshete also highlights some of the key issues discussed in the book , such as conceptual analysis of civilization, cultural conflicts that Ethiopian immigrants experience, the role of religion, particularly the role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the identity reconstruction of Ethiopians and community formation, family life, and the challenges of different and sometimes conflicting Ethiopian and American approaches to socialization. Eshete identifies three major criticisms of Wolde Giorgis’ book. First, he states that the author has not adequately addressed the influential role of the Ethiopian diaspora in shaping political discourse in the homeland. Secondly, the role of non-Christian groups, especially the sizeable Ethiopian Muslim communities, has not been addressed sufficiently. Third, he argues that the author has not provided supportive sources for the claims he makes in his book despite his extensive bibliography. Finally, Eshete recommends the book to scholars of Africa-related immigrant studies and notes the need to translate the book into English to make it readily available to the wider scholarly community.

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A third book, which is relatively shorter, is written by Peter Hagos Gebre (2004), titled Making it in America: Conversations with Successful Ethiopian American Entrepreneurs. It offers the stories of a dozen Ethiopian immigrants who managed to be successful economically and become effervescent entrepreneurs in the U.S. Gebre provides a brief introduction discussing the push and pull factors that resulted in the immigration of Ethiopians to the U.S., their patterns of settlement, and how many Ethiopians managed to be successful economically and invest in the host country. Apart from the above books, I have also accessed a handful of dissertations dealing with Ethiopian immigrants in the United States. The first is Solomon Addis Getahun’s dissertation (2005), which came out as the book discussed above. The title of the dissertation uses only the word “immigrants,” which is sub-divided into “immigrants and refugees” in the book. In addition, the book adds “patterns of migration, survival and adjustment” as a sub- title. Except for these minor differences, the contents of the dissertation and the book are basically the same. Mohammed Hamid Mohammed (2006) dissertation, titled “Imagining and performing Habesha identity: The Ethiopian diaspora in the area of Washington, D.C.,” discusses the influx of Ethiopian immigrants into the United States in three waves. These waves correspond with the political and economic instability in Ethiopia influenced by global forces that transformed the world, such as Communism and its demise in his introductory chapter. Mohammed examines Ethiopian immigrants’ reinvention and performance of the racially ambivalent Habesha identity (neither black nor white) in response to the disempowering connotations of blackness. He argues that those Ethiopians who embrace Habesha identity seek to establish prestige through ritualized re-enactment performances of Judeo-Christian heritage in various spaces , such as churches, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. Mohammed

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argues that this puts them in contradiction with African Americans and southern Ethiopians who contest expressions of Habesha exceptionalism. The tension between Ethiopian immigrants and African Americans was specifically intensified by a proposal to rename a street in Washington D.C. dominated by Ethiopian businesses as Little Ethiopia. Two PhD dissertations and one master’s thesis focus on adjustment and adaptation of Ethiopian immigrants to life in the United States. Emmanuel Daniel Ornguze’s PhD dissertation (1997) explores the trials and tribulations of Ethiopian political refugees in New York City in a ten-year period (1985–1995). This dissertation examines cultural, historical, and political factors in order to understand how the refugees cope and adjust in the host country. Ornguze concludes that recent Ethiopian refugees try to avoid adaptation by surrounding themselves with their own kind in contrast with better-educated earlier Ethiopian refugees who adapted more easily. Yesalemush Sendeku’s dissertation (1987) titled “Migration and Health: The Case of Ethiopian Immigrants in the United States,” focuses on how adjustment experiences of immigrants impact their physical and mental health. Sendeku positions her study using the theoretical perspectives of marginality and family conflict and employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. Her findings show that most of her participants are satisfied with their lives in the United States. Their satisfaction is attributed to participants’ high level of education, fluency in the English language, hard work and inner strength, belief that honest and diligent work pays off, as well as the social support they provide one another, availability of facilities for education and growth in the U.S., and the political freedom in their adopted country, among other things. It appears that Sendeku’s research participants constitute primarily well educated and better off Ethiopian immigrants.

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Even if the majority of Sendeku’s research participants are satisfied with their life in the United States, some participants reported that they experienced adjustment difficulties due to downward occupational mobility, insufficient income, loneliness, and limited career advancement because of prejudice and discrimination. She singles out the elderly as having experienced more severe difficulties because of language problems and lack of familiarity with the U.S. culture. Since Sendeku’s dissertation was written in the middle of the 1980s, her research participants consisted mainly of Ethiopian immigrants who came during what Mohammed (2006) calls the “Second Wave,” refugees running away from the atrocities of the military government, who passed through the educational system of the imperial era, which prepared them to be more proficient in English than the educational system of the military regime. I argue that if a similar study were replicated at this moment, the results would be markedly different. Shira L. Luft’s master’s thesis (2004) investigates Ethiopian immigrants’ experiences of life in the U.S. and the factors that facilitate or impede their adjustment. On the basis of interviews with ten Ethiopian immigrants, this study identifies some of the areas of difficulty experienced by Ethiopian immigrants. The first one has to do with a bumpy adjustment process, especially at the initial stages of their arrival, due to cross-cultural differences attributed to factors like language and communication, and feelings of isolation and loneliness. Other areas discussed in this thesis that impact adjustment include immigrants’ goals, motivation and outlook, and social support, among others. My dissertation also draws pertinent information from two seminary-oriented PhD dissertations. One of these, written by Alemseged Asmelash Hagos (2004), attempts to provide a model for immigrants for the religious education of their children in a new culture. The author argues that the spiritual training of children primarily rests on parents, and others

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can play only a supportive role. This claim goes along with the role of parents or the home for native language maintenance, which is one of the issues discussed in my study. Hagos’ approach is didactic as he alleges that his study seeks “to convince mothers and fathers in the ministry context of the writer to train children spiritually and teach them how to do the training” (p. iv). He uses what he calls a theological reflection model of ministry to achieve his purpose. The study is situated in the Ethiopian Evangelical Church. The other seminary-based dissertation is Mohammed Mussa’s “Sociocultural Problems Experienced by Ethiopian Immigrants in the United States and Communication of the Gospel” (2005). As the title reads, the primary purpose of this dissertation is to identify social and cultural problems faced by both first-generation Ethiopian immigrants and their children. Problems emerging due to race, prejudice, discrimination, and difficulties in the process of assimilation are discussed in this dissertation. The discussion in the first part of the dissertation is too general, but it becomes more specific in the second half where it focuses on problems at the family level between husbands and wives, and between parents and their children. Mussa recommends to church leaders and policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels that the unique needs of Ethiopian immigrants can be addressed by understanding the Ethiopian worldview. He also recommends to Ethiopian immigrants that isolation does not help, and hence they need to integrate into the host culture.

Full document contains 290 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation was to conduct a sociocultural linguistic study on Ethiopian immigrants in the Denver metropolis. It specifically examined language practice of Ethiopian immigrants at home and in church. The study centered on three Ethiopian Orthodox parish churches, taken as separate communities of practice. The study was informed by theoretical considerations from three interrelated areas of linguistics, namely, language and identity, language socialization, and language contact. Five methods of data collection were employed: participant observation, video recordings of liturgical services, interviews, recordings of naturally occurring conversations, and a survey. The language practice of Ethiopian immigrants is influenced largely by their close-knit network and beliefs about the role language plays in defining their identity. While first-generation Ethiopian immigrants tend to maintain their native languages, their children tend to be monolingual in English. Frequent use of native languages and close-knit network among the first generation hinder their proficiency in English, which in turn influences their socialization into mainstream society. In addition, Ethiopian immigrants use narratives to construct their identity by contrasting a more socialized current self with a less socialized former self. The parish churches play a prominent role in helping the first generation practice their faith, and maintain their native languages and culture. They also teach the second generation Ethiopian history, culture, and language. Language practice in the churches raises the issue of choosing Ge'ez or Amharic for the liturgy. Despite their limited knowledge, the clergy and the majority of the laity favored the continued use of Ge'ez. The parish churches differ in their affiliation to a synod in Ethiopia (Kidane-Mehret and Medhane-Alem) or in exile (Kidist-Mariam). On a tradition-modernity continuum, Kidist Mariam falls on the modernity end, Medhane-Alem on the tradition end, while Kidane-Mehret lies somewhere in between. These emerging differences may have serious implications for the future unity of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In addition to contributing to the body of scholarship in sociocultural linguistics, this dissertation is a modest contribution to the dearth of research on Ethiopian immigrants in the diaspora. It can also have practical significance for Ethiopian immigrants in the United States.