Language contact phenomena in a context of migration: The case of an Italian community in Bletchley

Valentina Del Vecchio | Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” Chieti-Pescara

Migration is a phenomenon that has important repercussions on the linguistic repertoires of both the host society and the migrant group. In fact, social and geographical mobility often translate into a change in linguistic and communicative relationships (Chini 2004). In migration settings, people with a certain sociolinguistic background are exposed to new language varieties, which in most cases become part of their linguistic repertoires and come into contact with their heritage language(s).

An example of this kind of situation is the case of a community from two small Italian villages living in Bletchley (Milton Keynes, England), whose average linguistic repertoire is composed of three main language varieties, i.e. a variety of English, an Italo-Romance dialect, and a variety of Italian. The bonds among the members seem to be very tight and the sense of Italian identity is very strong, emphasised by the presence of associations and events dedicated to them.

Taking into account these characteristics, the research aims at detecting such language contact phenomena as ‘code-switching’ and ‘code-mixing’ in the speech of migrants from both the first and second generations and verify if some shared trends exist within the community. The phenomena will be analysed both from a functional (Auer 1984) and a structural perspective (Muysken 2000) and their relation with some extra-linguistic factors (generation, age, sex, etc.) will also be assessed.

In order to accomplish these research tasks, data of real conversations have been collected through both interviews and recordings of spontaneous speech.

As in other studies on Italian emigration (e.g. Di Salvo 2014, Rubino 2014), particular trends of language contact phenomena have been observed. The first results of this study also show a quite homogeneous linguistic behaviour among the community members, probably due to the peculiar sociolinguistic features of the community under study.


Auer, P. (1984). Bilingual conversation. John Benjamins

Chini, M. (2004). Plurilinguismo e immigrazione in Italia. Franco Angeli

Di Salvo, M. (2014). Variazione linguistica e identità regionale: I pugliesi di Cambridge e di Bedford. In R. Bombi & V. Orioles (Eds.), Essere italiani nel mondo globale oggi. Riscoprire l’appartenenza (pp. 77-107). Forum.

Muysken, P. (2000). Bilingual Speech. A Typology of Code Mixing. Cambridge University Press

Rubino, A. (2014). Trilingual Talk in Sicilian-Australian Migrant Families. Playing Out Identities Through Language Alternation. Palgrave Macmillan.