Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Malayna Bernstein

Committee Co-Chair

Audra Slocum

Committee Member

Lisa DiBartolomeo

Committee Member

Marjorie Samuel Orellana

Committee Member

Melissa Sherfinski

Committee Member

Samuel Stack


Through the case of a multilingual Estonian family of sojourners in the U.S., this ethnographic study examines the ways in which a multilingual family lives, understands, and constructs their transnational experiences, negotiating their language practices and identities in the context of their family space and globally. With an intention to respond to and to reflect the complexity of the phenomenon of language ecology in a multilingual transnational family, the study draws on and merges three conceptual frameworks: language socialization, family language policy, and transnational social spaces. Through the analysis of ethnographic observations, recordings of naturally occurring conversations, interviews with family members, and parents' graphic representations of their language selves, this thesis explores (1) family beliefs and attitudes about languages and language learning, (2) family language and cultural behaviors and practices, (3) family language management and overall language policy, and (4) family identities.;The analysis revealed that the parents' beliefs about language as a tool, as a resource, and as a social practice, and their beleifs about language learning originated from their personal experiences and broader ideological context. Those beliefs were translated into the family's rich multilingual discursive practices through which they constructed experiences for their children as multilingual "global elites" with flexible language and cultural citizenships. The family created a complex network of language and cultural spaces which encompassed the links to the home country through parents' languages and their memory, the connections to the Russian-speaking diaspora in the U.S. and relatives in Estonia, and the immediate context of the host country, the U.S.;The study illustrates that the notions of "heritage", "first", and "family" languages are contested, and in their individual realizations, embody the relationship between spatio-temporal context and individual experience. The momentum of the language choice, practice, and identification lies in one particular "standing point", beyond which is multiplicity of other developing scenarios of language choices, practices, and identifications. The "standing point" grounds in either the land where someone is born or resides (ius soli), or through the parents (ius sanguinis), or via the ways of "being and becoming" through languages learning (ius lingue), or through developing a feeling of being a product of the global world ( ius mundi).;The study aspires to contribute to the existing scholarship on language and society, language and identity, the ecology of multilingualism, heritage language socialization. This work advances the notion of language as a social practice, and provides illustrative support for conceptualizing multilingualism as a tool, a resource, and a social practice. The results of the study will be of interest to heritage language linguists, anthropologists, literacy studies and family studies scholars, and sociologists of language.