Swiss Islands in North America (SINA) was established as a research network on 20 June 2016 with the intention of pooling research expertise, resources, and interests to investigate Swiss languages/dialects and Swiss identity in North America. The network is made up of a team of international collaborators from the Université of Lausanne (CH), Ludwig-Maximilian Universität München (D), Universität Salzburg (A), Queen Mary University of London (UK), and the University of Wisconsin in Madison (US).

Using a range of sociolinguistic methods (dialectology, variationist sociolinguistics, historical sociolinguistics, multimodal platforms), the SINA research network is principally interested in the mechanisms associated with language maintenance and shift in the Swiss diasporas and the role that identity preservation plays in these processes. Questions of interest to the SINA team relate to how the official Swiss languages as well as regional dialects, incl. also Francoprovençal, have been maintained over time? Have these languages undergone structural changes that differ from changes in the homeland languages? How is Swiss identity transplanted to these communities?

The data we use to investigate language maintenance and change consist of historical recordings, manuscript emigrant letters, printed newspapers, as well as recent and new interviews with so-called Swiss ‘heritage language speakers’ of different generations. In order to answer our research questions, we then compare the heritage data across generations as well as to so-called ‘baseline’ language from the homeland, i.e. hitherto often considered to be the language/dialect spoken by first-generation immigrants.

HANDOUT about some of our research questions and our contact details.