The Language of Cultural Mixture and Persistence

by Steven Mintz

The study of migration encourages us to think about the process of cultural adjustment and adaptation that takes place after migrants move from one environment to another. In the early twentieth century, Americans commonly thought of migration in terms of a "melting pot," in which immigrants shed their native culture and assimilated into the dominant culture. Today, we are more likely to speak of the persistence and blending of cultural values and practices.

  • Assimilation: Absorption into the cultural tradition of another group.
  • Creolization: Cultural patterns and practices that reflect a mixture of cultural influences. In terms of language, creolization refers to the way that a subordinate group incorporates elements of a dominant group's language, simplifying grammar and mixing each group's vocabulary.
  • Fusion: The melding together of various cultural practices.
  • Hybridization: A fusion of diverse cultures or traditions.
  • Redefinition: To alter the meaning of an existing cultural practice, tradition, or concept.
  • Survival: The persistence of an earlier cultural practice in a new setting.
  • Syncretization: The way that a group of people adapts to a changing social environment by selectively incorporating the beliefs or practices of a dominant group.

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