Migrants and Their Languages in Historical Perspective
Historical legacies of past migrations and linguistic practices have an impact on the concerns about current migration and mobility processes, reminding us that mass migrations are not a new phenomenon. Mass migrations from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century to North America present an interesting subject in view of regulating moving speakers and their languages and their reception in the new country. Using discourse analysis of historical data from contemporary newspapers and other sources, the paper explores practices of inclusion and exclusion of Slavic speakers on the ground of social prejudice and legitimized ethnic and racial segregating practices. The results show that paradoxically, immigrants coming from the multilingual empire who were admitted (about 80%) after restrictive procedures, in the end faced the demanding issue of enforced linguistic and cultural assimilation in order to become accepted as loyal Americans. We use these pieces of historical memory of mass migrations as a resource to understand the present attitudes and policies toward migrating people, and their languages and cultures.