Family Language Histories: Three generations of Greek Cypriot origin in London

Floka, Nikoula. 2014. Family Language Histories: Three generations of Greek Cypriot origin in London. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis investigates in depth three case studies of families of Greek Cypriot origin, bringing up their children in London. Each family consists of three generations: grandparents, parents and children. My aim is to explain why, although the families have similar ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, their children have very different outcomes in terms of language maintenance or shift. My interest in this question arose through my role as teacher in the Greek community language school that all the children attend. I use a qualitative case study approach to explore the linguistic lives of the participants through semi-structured individual interviews with grandparents, parents and children. My study appreciates the complexity and uniqueness of each family and the journey of their languages over the years. I reveal the linguistic experiences of the first generation before and after they migrated from Cyprus to England, and of the second and third generations who were born and grew up in London. I analyse the factors which informed their choices with respect to abandoning their heritage code, or reviving or reinforcing it. Included in my analysis is the important effect of language ideologies on family language policies, made particularly complex by the participants’ diglossic background in which Standard Modern Greek holds more social and political power than the Cypriot dialect. Through the in-depth analysis of my participants’ accounts, the concept of ‘family language history’ emerges as an explanatory tool. This concept involves the inter-relationship between language ideologies as they are created and contested within particular socio-political circumstances, and the decisions taken by each generation about which code should be used in specific contexts within the family and the wider society. I draw on Bourdieu’s theoretical ideas about symbolic domination and the convertibility of linguistic capital into other forms of capital, and the concept of counter-hegemony, to explain how my participants negotiate the maintenance of the two varieties of their heritage language in an English-dominant society.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


language ideologies, symbolic domination, counterhegemony, theory of capital, human agency, case study.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


7 July 2014

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

01 Aug 2014 14:41

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 10:21


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