Paul Lamy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Peter C. Pineo


Research on bilingualism in a number of social science disciplines has reported an association between bilingualism, ethnic identity, and ethnic attitudes - causality has often been attributed to bilingualism. This research has been criticized on methodological grounds. There is a dearth of information concerning the relationship between bilingualism, ethnic identity, and ethnic attitudes in specific communities, regions, or societies since there have been very few studies of the social psychological aspects of bilingualism based on survey research methods. Yet another critique of previous research is that the theoretical framework in which reported findings have been couched has remained untested or that they have remained implicit. These theoretical underpinnings are explored and assessed.

The data for the thesis came from a sample survey of greater Montreal conducted in 1973, from a survey of the Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area conducted by the York Survey Research Center in late 1974 and early 1975, and from a secondary analysis of the Ethnic Relations Study, carried out for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1965. The analytic methods used are crosstabulation and partial correlation.

It was found in the analysis of all three surveys, which were carried out at different points in time and which used slightly different measures of the independent and dependent variable, that the association between bilingualism and ethnic identity is not strong, and that it varies from one mother tongue group to the other. This indicates that causality cannot be attributed to bilingualism. The analysis of the Ethnic Relations Study revealed that with intergroup contact and demographic context held constant, the relationship between bilingualism and ethnic identity is extremely weak. Bilinguals, it emerged, tend to identify with both language groups mainly where they are in contact with the other group and in contexts where the other group constitutes the demographic majority. With regard to the relationship between bilingualism and ethnic attitudes, it was found that there were weak associations between bilingualism and social distance, and bilingualism and ethnic prejudice. However, these all but disappeared when intergroup contact and demographic coxtext were controlled.

The theoretical debate, which has continued over the past several decades, concerning whether or not causality of these relationships can be attributed to bilingualism may still continue; however, the evidence presented in the dissertation indicates that causality cannot be attributed to bilingualism. Further, unicausal social psychological theories attributing such findings to the effects of the internalization of a second linguistic system would seem to be manifestly inadequate. Future theoretical efforts in this area of research ought to be of the kind which span disciplinary boundaries, assume multicausality, and lend themselves to operationalization. It is suggested that group membership theory may provide a fruitful point of departure.

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