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Language in society across the Baltic Republics: A comparative overview

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There is to date no systematic comparative analysis of work on the significance of language at the levels of the individual and the state across the Baltic. This introductory article reviews recent publications and proposes further aspects of research to be conducted on the language situation in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It also highlights the need to adopt a diachronic approach in language research.⟨/p⟩
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... In the literature to date, the situation around the Russian language abroad after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been discussed primarily in relation to nation-building and nationalisms in the individual new independent states ( Shlapentokh et al. 1994;Kolstoe 1995;Melvin 1995;Chinn and Kaiser 1996;Mirsky 1997;Smith et al. 1998;Janmaat 2000;Galbreath 2005;Davé 2007; Galbreath and Muižnieks 2009, and others). Much attention has been given to the questions of language policies in the successor states, especially those in support of the titular languages ( Ozolins 1994;Rannut 1994;Huskey 1995;Davé 1996;Krouglov 1999;Wright 2000;Landau and Kellner-Heinkele 2001;Hogan-Brun 2005;Hogan-Brun et al. 2005;Metuzāle-Kangere and Ozolins 2005;Verschik 2005, and others). In various levels of detail, the Russian language has also been discussed in relation to the bilingual and multilingual settings in specific countries ( Kreindler 1997;Polinsky 1997; Kagan and Dillon 2001; Mustajoki and Protassova 2004;Protasova 2004;Mechkovskaya 2005;Pavlenko 2006;Schmitt 2000, and others), including works focusing on public sphere environments (for example, Bilaniuk 2004;Zelenin 2007;Elias 2011). ...
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The chapter explores ethnic and linguistic affiliations and identity construction by Russian speakers in Estonia. It assumes the ethnolingusitic vitality paradigm and triangulates a quantitative study with the data obtained from focus group interviews about Russian speakers’ reflections on their ethnic and linguistic identities and intergroup relations in Estonia. The study outlines several subgroups amongst Estonian russophones, characterised by a combination of following variables: perceived strength differential, intergroup distance, utilitarianism and intergroup discordance. It concludes that Russian speakers living in Estonia do not form a single unitary category which has a uniform value system and linguo-social attitudes. Sub-groups differ significantly, from those having a tendency towards language shift and, associated with it, social mobility, to those with a limited contact with the Estonian-speakers and resistance towards integration into the Estonian-speaking society.
... In the literature to date, the situation around the Russian language abroad after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been discussed primarily in relation to nation-building and nationalisms in the individual new independent states ( Shlapentokh et al. 1994;Kolstoe 1995;Melvin 1995;Chinn and Kaiser 1996;Mirsky 1997;Smith et al. 1998;Janmaat 2000;Galbreath 2005;Davé 2007; Galbreath and Muižnieks 2009, and others). Much attention has been given to the questions of language policies in the successor states, especially those in support of the titular languages ( Ozolins 1994;Rannut 1994;Huskey 1995;Davé 1996;Krouglov 1999;Wright 2000;Landau and Kellner-Heinkele 2001;Hogan-Brun 2005;Hogan-Brun et al. 2005;Metuzāle-Kangere and Ozolins 2005;Verschik 2005, and others). In various levels of detail, the Russian language has also been discussed in relation to the bilingual and multilingual settings in specific countries ( Kreindler 1997;Polinsky 1997; Kagan and Dillon 2001; Mustajoki and Protassova 2004;Protasova 2004;Mechkovskaya 2005;Pavlenko 2006;Schmitt 2000, and others), including works focusing on public sphere environments (for example, Bilaniuk 2004;Zelenin 2007;Elias 2011). ...
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In this chapter, ethnolinguistic vitality is understood as a perception of ‘groupness’, together with emotional attachment to this group and readiness to act collectively as a group (see Ehala 2008a, 2010b); thus our approach is social psychological in nature and close to traditional subjective vitality studies, although the framework is considerably extended.
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This chapter introduces readers to the context and concept of this volume. It starts by providing an historical overview of languages and multilingualism in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, highlighting the 100th anniversary of statehood which the three Baltic states are celebrating in 2018. Then, the chapter briefly presents important strands of research on multilingualism in the region throughout the past decades; in particular, questions about language policies and the status of the national languages (Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian) and Russian. It also touches on debates about languages in education and the roles of other languages such as the regional languages of Latgalian and Võro and the changing roles of international languages such as English and German. The chapter concludes by providing short summaries of the contributions to this book.
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English as the main contact language during the last three decades has affected Latvian word-formation patterns, patterns of use and patterns of convention. This is pattern borrowing, in addition to phonological borrowing which is also rife. Part of this contact-induced change can be viewed as structural impact, part as a shift in conventions. Previously rare stylistic means - idiom transformations, nonce compounding, conversion, derivative adjectives and new linguo-stylistic devices, such as native blends or compound phrases - have proliferated. These imported patterns have found a niche in the Latvian linguistic system and are now used in various speech domains. They have become part of the Latvian language and usage. In general we can view these shifts as an enhancement of Latvian's inherent linguistic potential rather than the contact-induced change of traditional patterns.
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Focuses in particular on the language policies of the Second Independence period, directed at ensuring the Latvian language the status of sole official language of the country. The chapter also examines the Russian-Latvian ethno-linguistic ‘cleavage’ in the context of the new language policies.
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Time and space serve as key identity markers of a nation. This article focuses on the construction of historical space in Estonian history textbooks. The aim of this analysis is to follow the trajectory of post-Soviet understanding of Estonia’s location on the European map. Rejecting the Soviet idea that Estonia belongs to the Russian Civilization, the post-Soviet Estonian national elite has offered the Baltic Sea region as a plausible alternative regional identity. The present analysis suggests that the last two decades are marked by an increasing tendency in Estonian history textbooks to present the Baltic Sea region as the nation’s historical space.
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Minority languages in Europe, as part of a common cultural heritage, need protection. The contributions to this book reflect urgent, stimulating and productive debates among researchers in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, politics and sociology, and among language activists and policy makers. At the heart of the debate are the effectiveness of the existing political and legal frameworks aimed at protecting linguistic and cultural diversity, and prospects for the survival of minority languages in the process of European integration. © Gabrielle Hogan-Brun & Stefan Wolff, 2003. All rights reserved.
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Developments in the European Union over the last decade have been largely positive from the perspective of stateless and minority ethnic groups and the survival and prosperity of minority languages. This selection of sociologically and ethnographically oriented work enables the reader to compare developments in different ethno-linguistic revival movements within the European Union. The contributions also explore the impact of EU policy and discourse on the individual movements and the orientation of Western Europe as a whole towards linguistic heterogeneity and cultural diversity. A companion volume (0-333-92924-1) examines the status of minority languages in post-1989 Eastern Europe.
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One need not look far into history or, for that matter, the burgeoning academic literature on nationalism, to find that Europe has provided us with the model of the modern nation-state as we know it today. The French Revolution of 1789 and its aftermath created the precedent for a form of political organisation not countenanced before — a polity represented and unified by a culturally and linguistically homogeneous civic realm (May 2001). Previous forms of political organisation had not required this degree of linguistic uniformity. For example, empires were quite happy for the most part to leave unmolested the plethora of cultures and languages subsumed within them — as long as taxes were paid, all was well. The Greek and Roman Empires are obvious examples here, while ‘New World’ examples include the Aztec and Inca Empires of Central and South America respectively. More recent historical examples include the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s overtly multilingual policy. But perhaps the clearest example is that of the Ottoman Empire which actually established a formal system of ‘millets’ (nations) in order to accommodate the cultural and linguistic diversity of peoples within its borders (Dorian 1998). Nonetheless, in the subsequent politics of European nationalism — which, of course, was also to spread throughout the world — the idea of a single, common ‘national’ language (sometimes, albeit rarely, a number of national languages) quickly became the leitmotif of modern social and political organisation.