Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Heidi Swank

Second Committee Member

William Jankowiak

Third Committee Member

Jiemin Bao

Fourth Committee Member

Steven McCafferty

Number of Pages



Language learning motivations among immigrants are tied - via language ideologies - to socio-economic position, social networks, and problems encountered by the language learners in their everyday lives. Research into immigrants' reasons for language learning has often overlooked these factors (see Klassen & Burnaby, 1993, and Norton, 1995), but I offer in this thesis that the above factors are foundations for many immigrants' language ideologies - beliefs that people have about language. These language ideologies are, in turn, the foundations upon which one's motivations to learn a language are based. Using a Bourdieuvian paradigm, where inequitable positions of power exist through the unequal accumulation of cultural, social, economic, and linguistic capital, this thesis examines the everyday lives of immigrant ESL (English as a Second Language) learners and ties these behaviors to instrumental or integrative motivational orientations for learning English. An instrumental motivation is one in which a person learns a language in order to accomplish some goal or task, while an integrative motivation is one in which a person learns a language to further assimilate themselves into the target community.

Specifically, this research examines the social networks of my study participants, as well as how and with whom they use English, as it has been shown that individuals tending toward integrative motivations to learn a language are more likely to interact with native speakers of the target language (Gardner, 1983). It was found that the integrative / instrumental paradigm, which is widely used in second language research, is restricted in its abilities to account for the motivations of all of my participants, thus pointing to the limits of using just an instrumental / integrative paradigm for studying the issues associated with learning ESL, and highlighting the usefulness of an anthropological approach via the use of participant observation methodology.


Capital; English language — Study and teaching — Foreign speakers; ESL; Ideology; Language; Limited English-proficient students; Motivation (Psychology); Motivation in adult education; Second language acquisition; Students


Linguistics | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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