Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Heritage Language Use, Maintenance and Transmission by Second-Generation Immigrants in Cyprus

Written By

Sviatlana Karpava

Submitted: 28 May 2021 Reviewed: 31 May 2021 Published: 25 June 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.98634

From the Edited Volume

Heritage - New Paradigm

Edited by Daniela Turcanu-Carutiu

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There are both culturalist and structuralist approaches to the integration of the second-generation immigrants into mainstream society. These approaches focus on cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic assimilation. Successful societal membership is associated with psychosocial adaptation, hybrid identity, selective acculturation or biculturalism, which is an individual’s adjustment to new psychological and social conditions. Individual identity is related to the sense of belonging, integration and engagement in the current space. Self-identity is fluid and flexible; it comprises individual and collective identity, habitus or unconscious identity, agency and reflexivity, which is re-evaluated and adjusted throughout the life trajectory of a migrant and connected to citizenship and solidarity. This study investigated heritage language use, maintenance and transmission, as well as language and cultural identity and social inclusion of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus with various L1 backgrounds. The analysis of the data (e.g. questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions, observations) showed that second-generation immigrants have a hybrid language and cultural identity, as well as multifarious perceptions regarding citizenship, inclusion and belonging. These immigrants try to assimilate to the target society, but at the same time they have a strong link with the community of residence, their L1 country and their heritage or home language. The participants also use mixed/multiple languages at home and elsewhere.


  • heritage language use
  • maintenance
  • transmission
  • language and cultural identity
  • second-generation immigrants

1. Introduction

Globalisation does not necessarily mean homogenisation: intercultural understanding and education should be promoted [1], with an “open and respectful” dialogue between/among interlocutors with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage on the basis of mutual understanding and respect” ([2], p. 10). Multicultural backgrounds and identities are not restricted to ethnic, religious and linguistic traits. Culture includes “experience, interest, orientation to the world, values, dispositions, sensibilities, social languages, and discourses” ([3], p. 173]). It is a challenge for educators to address cultural diversity [4].

Cultural diversity is one of Europe’s most valuable assets, and European educational and cultural systems need to embrace diversity and enable all citizens to build the skills and competences needed for effective inter-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding. The challenge is in understanding how young people make sense of Europe and its different cultures. The influences on young people are wide ranging, including formal education, family and cultural background and media. [5] and “ongoing relationships of negotiation, compromise, and mutuality” ([6], p. 351). It is important to develop cultural literacy, intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding [7].

This study investigates heritage language use, maintenance and transmission, as well as language and cultural identity and social inclusion of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus with various L1 backgrounds. According to [8], there are culturalist and structuralist approaches to the integration of second-generation immigrants into mainstream society: these approaches focus on cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic assimilation. Successful societal membership is associated with psychosocial adaptation, hybrid identity, selective acculturation or biculturalism, which is an individual’s adjustment to new psychological and social conditions [9, 10, 11]. Individual identity is related to the sense of belonging, integration, engagement in the current space [12]. Self-identity is fluid and flexible; it comprises individual and collective identity, habitus or unconscious identity, agency and reflexivity, which is re-evaluated and adjusted throughout the life of a migrant and is connected to citizenship and solidarity [13]. We addressed the needs of young adults and second-generation immigrants in Cyprus and their linguistic and cultural identities, knowledge, skills and competencies required for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding for promotion of tolerance, empathy and inclusion in Cypriot society [7, 14].

Alternative views and cultures should be accepted with “an absence of prejudice, racism or ethnocentrism” ([15], p. 1033), and tolerance is needed for genuine dialogue. “If there is no gap then there is no dialogue and if there is no dialogue then there is no meaning.” [16]. In a multilingual, pluralistic society, with social responsibility and sustainable development, it is important to position ideas carefully, to engage meaningfully in a dialogue and to discuss and respect interlocutors. Educational programs (for immigrants and members of the local community) should include issues of social responsibility, diversity, multiculturalism, intercultural dialogue, citizenship and cultural literacy, collaborative co-construction, adaptive education, communities of practice, globalization and inclusion. The effect of the pandemic and resultant societal actions should also be considered.


2. Acculturation and multicultural societies, language/culture identity

Acculturation presupposes a multidimensional and interactive perspective on attitudes, behavioural repertoires, life domains, changes and cross-cultural transitions [17, 18, 19]. The four behavioural acculturation orientations are distinguished by [17]: (1) integration, maintenance of cultural heritage and adoption of new cultural traits; (2) assimilation, relinquishing of cultural heritage and replacement with new cultural traits; (3) separation, maintenance of cultural heritage and refusal to adopt new cultural traits; and (4) marginalisation, refusal of both heritage and new cultural traits ([20], p. 2). According to the Acculturation Model (IAM) [18], there can be a (mis)match between ideologies and orientations of immigrants and the receiving community members (RCM) that can lead to both negative and positive consequences such as negative psychological self-esteem in immigrants [18, 21] and the perpetuation of perceived threats in both groups, [20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25].

In many societies, there is a tension between immigrants and RCMs, as the former tend to prefer integration, whereas the latter advocate assimilation of migrants, undermining the potential of a pluralistic community and threatening cultural maintenance of new speakers [22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27]. There could be also differences regarding public (e.g., work, school, other shared spaces) and private domains (e.g., within families, values/belief systems) and acculturation strategies and expectancies, adaptive requirements or acculturative pressures [19, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32]. The age of migrants and their date of arrival in the host country (child vs. adult, length of residence in the country, first, second, third generation of immigrants) are important factors that affect acculturation strategies associated with established identities and/or fewer educational and socialization opportunities [33, 34]. Previous research shows that RCMs are more tolerant of first-generation immigrants maintaining their heritage language and culture than they are of second- or third-generation migrants doing the same [35, 36, 37].

The issue of hybrid identities should also be considered (adult vs. child immigrant, first, second, third generation) [38] related to the attitudes of the receiving society, social networks, bilingualism, multilingualism, transnationalism, assimilation and integration [39, 40]. The analysis of intergroup relations and their impact on acculturation, eradication of prejudice, anxiety and discrimination, and increase of contextualisation, empathy, inclusion and mediation is essential [41]. Acculturation is considered a complex, situated, and dynamic process associated with uncertainty and unfamiliarity of accommodation that usually immigrants or new speakers in society usually face [20]. Complex dynamics of multicultural contact between immigrants and RCMs usually take place at the local level (local communities) [42, 43, 44, 45]. These contacts are affected by various factors such as attitudes, behaviours, practices, expectations, intercultural dialogue [18] and shared space related to social status and power, values, norms, mutuality, cooperation and identification [46, 47, 48]. Inter-ethnic relations are based on power hierarchies and distinction between ‘dominant and ‘nondominant’ cultural groups [49] and mostly a one-way acculturation that has to be initiated by immigrants rather than the result of reciprocal acculturation strategies and expectancies of both immigrant and receiving communities [20, 50, 51]. This could be related to community members’ fears of losing power (cultural, sociopolitical or economic) associated with realistic and symbolic threats. Such fears can often be reflected in the mainstream media [52].

Language, culture and personal and social identities are closely related. This relationship can become quite complex in multilingual and multicultural settings [53, 54, 55]. According to [56], our ethnocultural identity is indexed, shaped and redefined by the languages we speak. Immigrating to another country creates the need for an immigrant to integrate into a new culture but also keep links with their ethnic identity and heritage culture [57, 58, 59]. In the case of second-generation immigrants, the situation is even more complicated; quite often they have bi−/multilingual, bi−/multicultural, hybrid identity [60] as they belong to two or more cultures and have competencies in the majority and minority languages [61, 62, 63].

Previous research on second-generation immigrants showed that the sense of belonging to heritage language and culture depends on the level of heritage language proficiency [64], although there are variations among different ethnic groups. Heritage language literacy is also an important factor that affects linguistic and cultural identity of heritage speakers [65, 66, 67, 68, 69] and their access to historical and cultural heritage [70] via the home literacy environment [67, 71], school language programs [54, 65] or community-based language schools [68, 72].

In this study we aimed to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are the linguistic and cultural identities of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus?

  2. Is there any difference in the composition of their Dominant Language Constellations?

  3. What are the factors that affect heritage language use, maintenance and transmission and social inclusion of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus with various L1 backgrounds?


3. Study

3.1 Participants

This study investigated the language and cultural identity of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus with various L1 backgrounds: Russian, Georgian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Arabic, Polish, Albanian and English. Thirty participants took part in the research, their ages ranging from 18 to 27 years old (mean = 22.6; SD = 2.82), with eight males and 22 females. Thirteen of the respondents were born in Cyprus, while the rest were exposed to Greek when they were from two to 16 years old (AoO: Mean = 3.73; SD = 4.33). Overall, their length of residence in Cyprus ranges from 9 to 26 years (Mean = 18.93, SD = 4.98), see Table 1.

1RF20R146R + GR + GFMR + G + ER + G + E
2BF20B1010BB + CGHB + G + E + S + RusB + G + E
3LF26C260L + GL + CGHL + G + E + FL + G + E
4AF23C230GCGFMG + E + AG + E
5RusF20C200G + RusG + CG + RusFMG + Rus + E + SG + R + E
6UkrF21Ukr912Rus + Ukr + G + ERus + CGHRus + Ukr + G + ERus + G + E
7GeM20G182G + Rus + EGe + CG + RusHG + Rus + EG + Rus + E
8ArmF23F230Ar + CGAr + CGFMAr + E + G + F + GerAr + E + G
9RusF19C190GG + Rus + CGHG + Rus + EG + Rus + E
10AF22C220G + AG + AFMG + A + F + EG + A + E
11RM25G205G + RusRusFMRus + G + ERus + G + E
12AF2711116AAFMA + E + GA + E + G
13PM25C250P + CGP + CGHP + CG + EP + CG + E
14UkrF26Ukr1610Ukr + Rus + CGUkr + Rus + CGHUkr + Rus + CG + EUkr + Rus + CG + E
15AlbF18G190G + AlbG + AlbHAlb + G + E + ItAlb + G + E
16EM25Eng205E + G + F + ItG + CG + ItHE + G + F + ItE + G + F + It
17EF23C230E + G + AE + CG + A + T + RusHE + G + A + RusE + G + A + Rus
18GF19G109G + T + Rus + EGHG + T + Rus + E + ItG + E + Rus
19RF18R108R + E + GRHR + E + G + SR + E + G
20GF25G214G + EG + EHG + E + S + ItG + E
21GF22G193G + EGFMG + E + ItG + E
22GF22G184GGHG + E + Ger + FG + E
23EF18C180CG + ECG + EHCG + E + TCG + G + E
24RM25G196GG + RusFMG + Rus + EG + Rus + E
25AF25C250Ar + GAr + CGFMAr + G + E + FAr + G + E
26RF22G193G + Rus + EGFMRus + G + E + S + ItG + Rus + E
27GF27G234G + EG + CGHG + E + GerG + E
28RM24C240G + Rus + EG + Rus + EHG + Rus + E + FG + Rus + E
29GeM23G185Ge + RusGe + Rus + GHGe + Rus + G + EGe + Rus + G + E
30GeM26C260G + RusRusHG + Rus + E + Ge + FG + Rus + E

Table 1.


N = number; L1 = native language; G = Gender; CoB = Country of birth; LoR = Length of residence in Cyprus; AoO = Age of onset to Greek; LI = Language identity; CI = Cultural identity; SOC = society; LR = linguistic repertoire; DLC = Dominant Language Constellation; F = female, M = male; FM = full member. I’m a full member of the society with equal rights; H = Hybrid: I belong to both this society and my home country society; R = Romania; I = Iraq; P = Polish; B = Bulgaria; C = Cyprus; Eng = England; Ukr = the Ukraine; G = Greece; Ge = Georgian; Ar = Armenian; E = English; G = Greek; CG = Cypriot Greek; Ukr = Ukranian; Ger = German; T = Turkish; It = Italian; Alb = Albanian; B = Bulgarian; S = Spanish; Rus = Russian; A = Arabic; L = Lebanese; F = French.

3.2 Materials and procedure

We implemented a mixed-method study [73] by combining methods that complement one another and shed light on important questions in our research [74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79]. We had a multimodal perspective for the analysis of our data (questionnaires, interviews, observations and field notes) [80, 81, 82, 83].

For data collection, we used questionnaires, both paper-based and online versions [84]. According to [85], questionnaires are employed “as research instruments for measurement purposes to collect valid and reliable data” (p. 3). The researcher worked on the preparation of the questionnaires, taking research design into consideration as well as the criteria for participation, the formulation of the questions and items, length of the questionnaire and the balance between conciseness and completeness [84, 85].

Online questionnaires have the advantage of anonymity, as there is no face-to-face contact with the researcher. This means there is less pressure to participate and thus more honest responses can be elicited. In addition, web questionnaires can reach more participants and more diverse populations worldwide, with different language backgrounds, thus boosting the ecological validity of the data [74, 84]. However, it should be noted that online questionnaires have one major limitation: the self-selection bias [74], which is why we implemented both web- and paper-based questionnaires. We used probability sampling in order to have a representative sample of the general population and vulnerable or closed niche groups, so that our results are generalisable [86]. We carefully interpreted the results in order to avoid self-selection bias [87, 88, 89]. The researcher tried to balance the data/participants in terms of age, L1 background, education and gender [90, 91]. Our questionnaires were multilingual (Greek, English and Russian).

We also used oral interviews as not all of our participants had enough self-confidence, metalinguistic and metapragmatic awareness of language practices and a genuine interest in the topic as well as literacy skills in one or more languages [84, 90]. The interviews allowed us to have a person-centred, experiential focus on the participants’ experiences regarding cultural heritage and to obtain in-depth information unavailable to direct observation. The participants expressed themselves regarding the culture-related matters, immigration experiences, multilingualism, multiculturalism, integration and social cohesion; they also explained their motivations and related their personal stories [92]. The researcher acted as responsible and active interviewer and tried to find responsive and willing interviewees [92, 93, 94, 95].

We had face-to-face and online interviews (via Skype, Microsoft Teams). Our interviewees represented a cross-sectional sample of a specific target population (immigrant second-generation population in Cyprus) [96]. It is important to use standardised procedures (the same question items or prompts in the same order and manner) supplemented by extended or open-ended responses, which is a more flexible, conversational style of survey interviewing [97, 98]. The ecological validity of the survey was enhanced by piloting our research tools and materials, assessing the quality of the questions, protocols and potential responses [99, 100, 101]. (Auto)Biographical interviews helped us to elicit the personal histories, life trajectories, key events and first-person narratives of our participants [102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107].

Interviews are research instruments for “data collection” knowledge collection” or “data mining” ([95], p. 57), “excavation” ([108], p. 141) and “harvesting psychologically and linguistically interesting responses” ([92], p. 229, [109], p. 206). Both semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were implemented [74, 100, 110, 111, 112, 113]. The interviewer needs to be a flexible, patient and active listener with a good memory and strong inter-personal communication skills in order to collect the data and manage the unpredictability of the interview situation [95, 101, 114]. The interview goals and objectives were determined, and the interview schedule was prepared. The meeting place and time of interview were taken into consideration as were the recording equipment and participant informed consent forms [92].

The role of an interviewer in focus group discussion was to moderate discussion focused on the topic at hand in order to record the varied viewpoints and experiences of the participants [95, 115]. The moderator was active throughout the discussion in order to keep it flowing in a non-directive way by checking and clarifying (using prompts around a topic, issue, open-ended question) and making sure that all members of the group participated. The size of the group varied from six to 12 participants [74, 114, 116, 117, 118, 119]. It is essential for the researcher to have interviewing skills (flexibility, self-control, cross-cultural and pragmatic competence, empathy, time management, the ability to maintain discussion and enable all members to participate) [118, 120, 121, 122].

Interviews and focus group discussions were suitable for our exploratory study. The participants were able to express their views, attitudes, priorities and values regarding multilingualism, immigration experience, heritage language use, maintenance and transmission, linguistic and cultural identities, acculturation and integration; multiple focus groups were implemented [95, 115, 118]. Focus groups are equalisers: they are non-discriminatory and do not pressure reluctant or shy participants to speak [115, 122]. We used audio recordings, so it is important to establish rapport with the participants and to be an open, sympathetic and interested listener so that interviewees can talk freely and honestly [94, 95, 101, 123]. Language and interculturality were taken into consideration. Our participants have different L1s and cultural backgrounds; thus, we use a lingua franca or shared language to communicate (e.g., English or Greek) or the L1 language of the participants [124, 125, 126].

In addition, for our data collection we implemented observations and fieldnotes [127, 128, 129, 130] as part of our ethnographical study focused on immigration, acculturation, integration, linguistic and cultural heritage, heritage language use, maintenance and transmission and language and cultural identities [131, 132, 133, 134, 135].

Observations allowed the researcher to observe particular features of immigrant communities in their own contexts in Cyprus, audio record interactions and apply an analytic framework of post-observation [136]. An ethnographic approach and an emic perspective in our research revealed the context and the world of immigrant communities in Cyprus, their cultural heritage, interaction with the local population, their integration into Cypriot society and their needs, opportunities and challenges. The researcher talked to the participants, took part in local (cultural) practices (home, schools, neighbourhoods, institutions), observed and took fieldnotes [137, 138, 139]. The researcher gained access to the research site and managed to develop relationships with research participants [130, 139, 140]. These fieldnotes are defined as “productions and recordings of the researcher’s noticing with the intent of describing the research participants’ actions” ([141], p. 44).

A corpus was built from the fieldnotes used for further interpretative analysis, with coding and emergent themes and categories in line with the grounded theory [142, 143, 144]. We aimed to have valid and reliable results; thus, we used a mixed-methods approach to data collection and analysis, complementing questionnaires by interviews, observations and fieldnotes [15, 143, 145, 146]. The researcher was also able to produce vignettes based on the observation and fieldnotes. A vignette is “a focused description of a series of events taken to be representative, typical or emblematic” ([130], p. 260, [147], p. 81).


4. Results

The analysis of the data showed that only 6 of the participants stated that they identify themselves with only one language (language identity), mostly with Greek (4) or L1, in particular Arabic (1) and Bulgarian (1). Most of the participants (15) have a hybrid language identity and identify themselves with 2 languages: including Greek (13) or Cypriot Greek (2) and their L1/Ln, in particular, Romanian (1), Lebanese (1), Russian (4), Armenian (2), Arabic (1), Polish (1), Albanian (1), Georgian (1) and English (4). The other participants (7) identify themselves with 3 languages: Greek (6), Cypriot Greek (1), Russian (4), English (3), Ukrainian (1), French (1), Italian (1), Arabic (1), Romanian (1). And only 2 participants have a hybrid linguistic identity associated with 4 languages: Greek (2), English (2), Russian (2), Ukrainian (1), Turkish (1), see Table 1 and Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Linguistic and cultural identity, linguistic repertoire and DLC of the participants.

As for the cultural identity, 9 participants identify themselves only with one culture: Greek (4) and Cypriot Greek (1) and their L1: Russian (2), Arabic (1), Romanian (1). It should be noted that only in 3 cases (Participants 4, 12 and 22) is there an overlap between cultural and linguistic identity. The other respondents (13) stated that they have a hybrid cultural identity, a combination of two cultures: Greek (6), Cypriot Greek (8), Bulgarian (1), Lebanese (1), Russian (2), Armenian (2), Arabic (1), Polish (1), Albanian (1), English (2), see Table 1. In total, there was an overlap between cultural and linguistic identity in 10 cases. The rest of the respondents (7) stated that their hybrid cultural identity is associated with 3 languages: Greek (4), Cypriot Greek (5), Russian (6), Georgian (2), Ukrainian (1), Italian (1), English (1). Only in 2 cases are there is an overlap between cultural and linguistic identity. Only one participant (Participant 17) has a hybrid cultural identity that is associated with 5 languages and countries: English, Cypriot Greek, Arabic, Turkish and Russian (see Table 1 and Figure 1). One third of the participants (11) believe that they are full members of Cypriot society, while the rest (19) consider themselves part of both the majority and the minority (home country) society.

As for the linguistic repertoire of our participants, its constitution ranges from 3 languages (11 participants: Greek (9), Cypriot Greek (2), English (10), Romanian (1), Arabic (2), Russian (4), Polish (1), Italian (1), Turkish (1), German (1)), to 4 languages (14 participants: Greek (13), Cypriot Greek (1), English (14), Lebanese (1), French (6), Russian (6), Ukrainian (2), Arabic (2), Albanian (1), Italian (3), Spanish (2), German (1), Georgian (1)) and 5 languages (5 participants: Greek (5), English (5), Russian (4), Bulgarian (1), Spanish (2), Armenian (1), French (2), German (1), Turkish (1), Italian (2), Georgian (1)) (see Table 1 and Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Language: Linguistic and cultural identity, linguistic repertoire and DLC of the participants.

Concerning Dominant Language Constellations (DLC), the vehicle languages of our participants, the data analysis has revealed that 5 participants have only two languages, in particular Greek and English. Most of the participants (21) have 3 languages in their DLCs (Greek (20), Cypriot Greek (2), English (19) and their L1: Romanian (2), Bulgarian (1), Lebanese (1), Russian (10), Armenian (2), Arabic (2), Polish (1), Albanian (1)) and 4 languages (4 participants: Greek (3), Cypriot Greek (1), Ukrainian (1), Russian (3), English (4), French (1), Italian (1), Arabic (1), Georgian (1)) (see Table 1 and Figure 1). It should be noted that there is an overlap between linguistic repertoires and DLCs (7 cases for 3 languages and 4 cases for 4 languages). Overall, the major pattern of the DLC for our participants is Greek, English and their L1s (see Figure 3).

Figure 3.

DLC of the participants.

Hybrid language and cultural identity depend on the amount of time spent in a particular country and the language proficiency in the target language as well as on the type of the family (whether it is a culturally mixed marriage, bilingual, multilingual or not). See the following examples:

Both cultures, because I am Romanian and Greek because I moved to Cyprus and I learned their customs and slowly I started doing the same things that they do. (Participant 1).

Cypriot culture because my mother is Cypriot and also because I have been here long enough to identify as Cypriot. (Participant 7).

Georgian, Pontic Greek, Russian, Greek-Cypriot because I was raised among all of these cultures (Participant 29).

Armenian culture because I grew up in the Armenian community of Cyprus and Cypriot culture and was born and live in Cyprus. (Participant 8).

I identify myself with Albanian culture because my parents are both Albanian. Also, I identify myself with Greek culture because I was born and raised in Greece and I am still living in Greece. (Participant 15).

Strong links with the L1 country and culture, history and traditions, cuisine, TV programs, heritage language use, maintenance and transmission: these are some of the factors that contribute to the L1 cultural identity:

I identify myself with both Lebanese and Cypriot culture. As immigrants, my parents always encouraged me and my brother to stay in touch with our Lebanese culture by following most of its traditions and values. For example, we celebrate Mother’s day on the 21st of March instead of the 8th of March, the day it is celebrated in Cyprus. In addition, we were always in contact with the Lebanese culture through television. In the house we only have cable TV with Arabic channels and not Cypriot or Greek ones. Also, most dishes that we cook at home are Lebanese. At the same time, I also identify myself with the Cypriot culture, because I was raised there and most of my friends that I grew up with are Cypriots. And many traditions and values that I follow now as an adult belong to Cypriot culture. (Participant 3).

Pontic Greek because my father is Pontian and the relatives that are living here are from my father’s side. So, I grew up on Pontic traditions. Russian because my mother is Russian and Pontic celebrations and some traditions were mixed with Russian after the Asia Minor Catastrophe because they had to migrate to Georgia and other USSR countries. Greek because at the end of the day Pontic Greeks are Greeks. Cyprus, because I was born here and after all these years their culture grew on me as well. (Participant 9).

Linguistic behaviour of both mother and father is of great importance as well as of the extended family and relatives. Linguistic and cultural identities are affected by customs, material culture, stereotypical rules and the L1 background of the participants:

Cypriot, Greek and Russian: I identify myself with the particular cultures due to the matters of origin; my mother is Russian, and my father is half Cypriot and half Greek. I grew up with relatives from all three countries, being heavily influenced, and having consistent associations with the countries’ cuisines, customs, prejudices as well as manners and/or ethics. (Participant 9).

The cultures I identify with myself are Cypriot and English since my father was born in England and came to Cyprus when he was four. Also, my father has a stepsister from the UK. His stepsister and her family used to come to Cyprus every summer and we used to spend a lot of time together. So, I kept learning from them and practiced as well. (Participant 23).

The participants also commented that the majority speakers, Greek Cypriots, also have a favourable view of multilingualism in Cyprus, although they admit that there is a difference between the younger and older generations of CG populations regarding the acceptance/discrimination of “foreign” influence in Cyprus: the former tend to be “more open-minded”. Their attitudes depend on immigrant/minority language(s) status, socio-economic factors, level of the majority language proficiency.

My answer is yes and no. Some people are but some are not. When I moved to Cyprus in 2007 there was more racial discrimination, but now they are more open minded. (Participant 19).

Personally, I did not experience discrimination, but some people from other countries did, and I have seen it. The main reason for discrimination was that they do not speak the language correctly. (Participant 1).

Most of the residents accept people who speak other languages than their own; they often ask you something about your culture or even try to learn your language. (Participant 2).

Greek Cypriots can have a negative attitude towards foreigners if they speak their own L1s and cannot be understood. Some of them make stereotypical judgements:

At primary school because people could not understand my language, some of them were annoyed because they thought that I was talking about them in a negative way. (Participant 2).

I think as a community in Cyprus we are open towards people who speak other languages; not every one of us, but I think most of us (Participant 10).

Sometimes in Cyprus stereotypes come up such as the word ‘Αράπης’ [Arab] which I find offensive. (Participant 12).

Some of the students admitted that they can still observe some bullying, discrimination or negative attitudes, which depend on socio-economic factors and L1 origin:

No, because still there are people from my country of residence who bully and discriminate against people from other countries. (Participant 29).

They tell people that speak other languages to go back to their own countries. (Participant 30).

Cypriot society is open and tolerant to an extent. The conservative side of Cypriot society tends to be racist towards immigrants, especially towards people with different skin colour than white. On the other hand, Cypriots are rather respectful towards tourists. (Participant 8).

In the case of Cyprus, I think it is better to be familiar with the Cypriot Greek way of life because you integrate with society and get better treatment from various public services. Last week I made a phone call to a public service, and when the employee figured out that I was Greek she started talking in an arrogant way. Clearly the fact that this can happen to one person doesn’t mean that it is happening all the time with the Greek people or people of other nationalities in Cyprus. (Participant 21).

English as an international language and lingua franca has an important role in the linguistic repertoires of both majority and minority/immigrant students. English-CG code-switching/mixing is a common phenomenon, especially in the online and offline communication of younger generations of local and minority/majority students.


5. Discussion and conclusion

This study investigated heritage language use, its maintenance and transmission, as well as language identity and social inclusion of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus with various L1 backgrounds. The analysis of the data (questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions, observations) showed that second-generation immigrants have hybrid language and cultural identity and certain strong perceptions regarding citizenship, inclusion and belonging. They try to assimilate to the target society, but at the same time they have strong ties to their community of residence, with their L1 country, their heritage or home language. The participants also have hybrid language practice as they use mixed/multiple languages at home and elsewhere.

The second-generation immigrants in Cyprus have some similarities and differences regarding their DLC, linguistic behaviour, language attitudes and identities. They differ in terms of their age of onset to Greek, length of residence in Cyprus, language dominance, domains of language use, language proficiency and literacy skills. But they resemble each other in terms of their hybrid linguistic and cultural identity, presence of SMG/CG and English in their DLCs, code-switching, code-mixing and translanguaging.

The second-generation immigrants in Cyprus are exposed to national/majority language(s), but they also speak their immigrant or minority language(s). Greek is the national language in Cyprus. Our participants are second-generation immigrants in Cyprus or minority speakers, and for them Greek is either their second language or an additional language. So, they have certain challenges to overcome in their everyday lives and the mainstream education system. Their access to various languages in their multilingual repertoire is not equal. Not all of them have schooling or can develop literacy skills in their home languages. Thus, there is a question about inclusive and equitable education in multilingual settings as more institutional and policy support is required in the age of globalisation and superdiversity. In the case of Cyprus, students have their home language(s). Living in a bilectal setting, they are exposed to the national language, SMG, and to CG through speech, and then at university they need to use Greek and/or English in their studies. They use their vehicle languages in order to function in the society, for their education, and personal lives. They have different language proficiencies than their L1, L2, L3, Lns and different functions and domains of use.

There are various factors that affect heritage language use, maintenance and transmission as well as language and cultural identity, linguistic repertoires, DLCs and social inclusion of second-generation immigrants in Cyprus with various L1 backgrounds. Minority and immigrant speakers need to adapt to their new society and to adjust culturally and linguistically [9, 10, 11]. Their linguistic and cultural identities are not static and depend on their life trajectories, communication experiences, citizenship and solidarity with members of the minority and the majority communities [8, 12, 13].

The second-generation immigrants and minority speakers undergo the same process of acculturation as their first-generation parents. But it is more difficult for second-generation immigrants to maintain their heritage language and culture without proper L1 input, schooling and literacy skills development and to have a balance between integration, maintenance of cultural heritage and adoption of new cultural traits [17, 18, 19]. Home literacy environment, family language policy, social networks and attitudes could be the factors that affect the development of home language and culture or lead to assimilation, relinquishing of cultural heritage and replacement with new cultural traits (and in some cases separation or marginalisation) [20].

Not all of our participants have the same level of L1/heritage language knowledge. However, all of them have the majority language, Greek, and the lingua franca, English, in their linguistic repertoires and DLCs, which help them to function, communicate, study and work in Cypriot society. Overall, they have a positive attitude towards multilingualism and multiculturalism, their heritage language and culture, but their self-esteem can be negatively affected by discrimination against immigrants from the receiving community members [22, 23, 25].

There are individual differences in terms of their linguistic and cultural identities, DLCs linguistic repertoires, acculturation strategies and expectancies, adaptive requirements or acculturative pressures [19, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32]. Their language use depends on the domain (private vs. public), age, AoO, LoR in Cyprus, educational and socialization opportunities [33, 34] as well as tolerance towards and acceptance/support of multilingualism and multiculturalism in Cypriot society [35, 36, 37].

Linguistic, cultural and social identities are interrelated in the multilingual setting of Cyprus. Most of our participants have hybrid identities, which is reflected in their language use and attitudes [61, 62, 63]. Preserving linguistic and cultural diversity of immigrant and minority speakers in Cyprus can enhance cultural diversity, multilingualism and social inclusion in Cyprus and in Europe as a whole, as well as trigger the development of cultural literacy, intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding [7].

This study is the first attempt to investigate the needs, challenges and opportunities regarding heritage language use, maintenance and transmission, cultural and linguistic identities of second-generation immigrants and minority speakers in Cyprus. Further research with more participants of different ages, genders and L1 groups is required for deeper insight into the issues under investigation.


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Written By

Sviatlana Karpava

Submitted: 28 May 2021 Reviewed: 31 May 2021 Published: 25 June 2021