Americanization: The Immigrant's Bridge to Assimilation

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

University of Miami

Cedarville University School or Department

English, Literature, and Modern Languages

First Advisor

Eugene F. Jr. Provenzo, Committee Chair


Education, language and literature, bilingual and multicultural education, history of education


This content analysis of English language textbooks used during the Americanization period (1914--1924) sought to determine the discourse on immigration during this period in American history. The findings brought to light representations that can be applied to the current discourse on immigration and the expected assimilation or acculturation of those immigrants who would become American citizens.Through language textbooks, immigrants learn grammatical language forms, culture and cultural language. Cultural language or pragmatic language is necessary for the second language learner to be able to communicate clearly in the new speech community found in America. Americanization textbooks taught immigrants about American democracy, the qualities and characteristics that make a good citizen, and proper grammatical and pragmatic language forms.Using a content analysis model, this study sought to determine whether or not the Americanization textbook authors provided instruction for the specific themes of Democracy, Good Citizenship and Pragmatic Language. Thirty-four textbooks and 16 language methodologies published during this period were examined for explicit and implicit evidence of instruction in the three themes. Results of the study showed that Democracy was well represented via 13 categories throughout the textbooks. Good Citizenship was depicted twice as often as Democracy via 18 categories. However, Pragmatic Language was represented by 10 categories made up of nine speech acts and humor, but appeared only 10% as often as those categories representing Good Citizenship.By analyzing the emphasis given to instruction in Democracy, Good Citizenship and Pragmatic Language, one begins to understand the discourse on immigration during the Americanization period. It is clear that while the Americanization movement sought to have immigrants look and act like Americans, they were not taught the necessary language that would allow them to blend into the American speech community, thus forever leaving them outside the culture of power. Understanding this discourse enables those involved with educating today's immigrants to recognize the current discourse on immigration and alter those areas of instruction that do not allow immigrants the best opportunity to learn the elements of culture and cultural language that would allow them to fit into and engage in mainstream American society.