Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Charles L. Jones




This thesis examines the effects of parental influence on ethnic language retention by children in five Chinese communities in urban Canada. Related literature suggests that ethnic language is vital to the survival and continuity of the ethnic community because it not only provides an efficient means of communication among people in the same ethnic group but also preserves the ethnic culture and fosters ethnic identity and solidarity. Ethnic language loss is likely to be accompanied by weakening of ethnic identity and enfeebling of ethnic integration, and hence is a threat to the vitality of ethnic community.

Ethnic language loss in the second and third generations is a wide-spread phenomenon in North American societies. This thesis, however, focuses on one of the forces that could contribute to counteract or slow down the tempo of language loss. Attention is paid to the family as an ethnic language retaining agent. The most notable contribution made by this thesis lies in its empirical assessment of parental influence on ethnic language retention by children. It was found that parents' direct promotion explained 44 per cent of the total variance of ethnic language retention by children among Chinese in urban Canada. This indicates that the family is a very important ethnic language retaining agent.

Four other parental variables were examined for the detection of their effects on parents' direct promotion of ethnic language. They were: parents' ethnic identification, parents' ethnic community involvement, parents' knowledge of English/French, and parents' length of time in Canada. Parents' ethnic community involvement was found to have positive effect on their direct promotion of ethnic language, whereas parents' knowledge of English/ French exerted negative impact on their direct promotion. Both parents' ethnic identification and length of time in Canada were not significantly related to other variables, implying that, among Chinese in urban Canada, ethnic identification is not a determinant of ethnic life, and their extent of assimilation to the Canadian society remains rather stable over time.

Data were extracted from the 1973 Non-Official Language Survey which studied ethnic language retention and related issues among ten ethnic groups selected from five metropolitan cities in Canada. The Chinese were one of the ten ethnic groups and this group was chosen for the present analysis. Path analysis was employed to assess the direct and indirect effects among the variables. Assumptions of path analysis were tested to determine the extent to which they were met. In particular, Goodman's log-linear system was used to test the assumption of absence of interaction effects among the variables of the model.

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