Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Serbian Heritage Language Maintenance and Language Shift: Identity of the ‘Voice’ from a Serbian Orthodox Church in Michigan

Serbian Heritage Language Maintenance and Language Shift: Identity of the ‘Voice’ from a Serbian Orthodox Church in Michigan

Livija G. Marina

This paper addresses issues of Serbian heritage language maintenance and language shift by analyzing the linguistic situation in one church community in Michigan, St. Lazarus Serbian Orthodox Church in Detroit. Historical background of Serbian immigration and the history of the church supplement an in-depth content analysis of the church newsletter sample. This analysis provides data for answering questions about the role of church in language maintenance, and for examining the relationship between language and identity. Results of this study show the presence of a significant language shift to English in this community, but also demonstrate that this church and related organizations play an important role in Serbian language maintenance. Findings also reveal the presence of syncretic language elements as an expression of the syncretic culture of Serbian Americans and their identity. Future research could include ethnography, oral history, and archival and demographic data analysis that could be used to analyze the patterns of language shift, and to study this community’s views regarding the importance of language as an expression of identity. Comparing the results of this study to the language use in other Serbian churches in the region could also be a topic for future research.

Keywords: language maintenance, language shift, language syncretism, language and identity, role of church in language maintenance, Serbian Americans in Michigan


April 6, 2015 - Posted by | abstract


  1. The case is similar in Mosques too. I think Mosques play a big role in maintaining Arabic language in the States. I see my friends’ children ages 6-11, who attend American schools only, have lost their Arabic language and their sense of belonging to a certain religion/community. On the other hand, Moms who decided to take their children with them once a week to the Mosque, not only are they attuned to the Arabic language better, but were also able to preserve their sense of pride of belonging to their community.

    Comment by Suha | April 29, 2015 | Reply

  2. How can we get access to the whole paper?

    Comment by Ana Jovic | December 1, 2018 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: