Slot:       28B-7         Dec. 28, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.                                              

Panel:     Sociolinguistics

Chair:     Joan Chevalier, US Naval Academy


Title:       Moravians in Prague: The Results of Dialect Contact in a Society with a Socially Stigmatized and Primarily Non-spoken Standard

Author:   James Wilson, University of Sheffield, UK

This paper addresses long-term dialect contact in a society with a socially stigmatized and primarily non-spoken standard. I analyze to what extent 40 students from Moravia (the eastern part of the Czech Republic) living at a hall of residence in Prague acquire variants of Common Czech (CC), a non-standard but semi-prestigious koiné spoken throughout Bohemia (the western half of the Czech Republic). In Bohemia, both Moravian dialects and the standard ‘dialect’, Standard Czech (SC) – an archaic, functionally restricted, primarily non-spoken standard with no native speakers – are socially stigmatized and disadvantageous, although for different reasons. Therefore, it is hypothesized that speakers of Moravian dialects living in Bohemia are pressurized into quickly dropping or reducing variants of their highly localized vernaculars and accommodating towards CC (Sgall and Hronek 1992). However, this ‘hypothesis’ is based on anecdotal evidence, rather than on empirical findings and it is the product of linguists who promote CC as a national vernacular.

My study, which combines a quantitative multivariable analysis with qualitative and ethnographic data, tests the above hypothesis and provides a representative, reliable and accurate sociolinguistically-orientated account of how speakers of Moravian dialects living in Prague assimilate the speech norms of their host community. I correlate informants’ acquisition of six CC variants with four independent social variables: ‘sex’, ‘region of origin’, ‘span of residency in the host community’ and ‘level of integration in the host community’. In this paper, I focus primarily on gendered differences in accommodation, differences between speakers of East Moravian and Silesian dialects and I highlight in what ways informants’ life styles and attitudes towards language influence their linguistic behaviour. My results show that: (1) informants’ accommodation is a highly complex process characterized by a high level of intra- and inter-speaker variation; and (2) this variation is structured by a combination of language-internal and extralinguistic factors.

Sgall, P. and J. Hronek. 1992. Čeština bez příkras. Prague: H&H.


Title:       Communications and Consequences of Negotiating a Language Choice for Interpersonal Communication in the Republic of Moldova

Author:   Irina Dubinina, Bryn Mawr College

The study of language attitudes in modern Moldova is complicated not only by differences in the language policies during the USSR and post-Soviet independence, but also by the fact that the ethnically Moldovan population is split in half on the question of cultural affiliation: are Moldovans identical with the neighboring Romanians or are they a separate ethnicity?  The wave of Moldovan nationalism after the fall of the USSR led to the reversal of Soviet-time language and educational policies in the Republic which now favor the Moldovan language, often at the expense of Russian (Mlechko 1999). 

The current study investigates language attitudes, preferences, and usage of young Moldovans fourteen years after the emergence of independent Moldova. Data from surveys and interviews conducted in Chisinau schools by the author show that despite the pro-Moldovan focus in the current language policies, the use of both Russian and Moldovan is a norm and a necessity.  Both languages are required to maintain valuable social networks of friendship and kinship:  40% of respondents report using Russian with a best friend, 35.5% report using Moldovan and 23% report using both.  The paper will report on a range of attitudes and observed practices informing the use of Russian and of Moldovan in the Republic.


Mlechko, T. P. 1999.  Byt ili ne byt: Russkii yazyk v sisteme obrazovania Respubliki Moldova 1989-1999. Kishinev:  “Inessa”.


Title:       Interethnic and Intraethnic Dynamics Influencing Language Maintenance and Shift among Belarusian University-Age Students

Author:   N. Anthony Brown, Brigham Young University

When attempting to ascertain the degree of acculturation in an ethnic group, language shift provides direct and reliable source of evidence.  As defined in his seminal paper on language maintenance and language shift, Fishman (1972) asserted that “The study of language maintenance and language shift is concerned with the relationship between change (or stability) in language usage patterns, on the one hand, and ongoing psychological, cultural, or cultural processes, on the other hand, in populations that utilize more than one speech variety for intra-group or for inter-group purposes.”  Building on Stevens’ (1985) and Veltman’s (1983) work addressing the influence of nativity and linguistic characteristics on language shift, the present research investigates language shift among five hundred ninety nine Belarusian university-age students by examining linguistic homogeneity and heterogeneity (also referred to as intraethnic dynamics) as key factors potentially contributing to language shift in the home—a highly indicative domain of overall language utilization and, in many respects, a last bastion in terms of language maintenance.

Participants responded to a questionnaire that inquired as to their language use with maternal and paternal grandparents during childhood versus their language use with their mother and father in childhood.  In addition, respondents reported their language use with their spouse and children, including prospective use with children for those either married without children or single.  Finally, this research discusses respondents’ concern (or lack thereof) about the future of Belarusian and the extent to which language use with prospective children reflects that concern.



Fishman, Joshua A. (1972). "Language maintenance and language shift as a field of inquiry: revisited," Language in Sociocultural Change (pp. 76-134). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Stevens, Gillian.  1985.  "Nativity, Intermarriage, and Mother-Tongue Shift."  American

Sociological Review.  Vol. 50 (February: pp. 74-83).

Veltman, Calvin.  1983.  Language Shift in the United States.  New York: Mouton Publishers.


Title:       Ethnic Self-Identification of Heritage Speakers of Russian in the United States

Author:   Evgeny Dengub, Bryn Mawr College

Ethnic identity is one of the facets of an individual’s social identity. This is a dynamic and constantly-developing, contextually-dependent phenomenon that is subject to change under the influence of various factors, and, at the same time, guiding an individual’s behavior. Our awareness of the mechanisms and nature of heritage learners’ ethnic self-identification may facilitate development of both students’ language proficiency and ethnic identity.

This paper examines the strategies Russian heritage speakers use in the process of identity construction, their reasons for self-identification with a particular ethnic group, and the context in which identification takes place. Participants in this research project were recruited from a large state university in the northeastern United States, where they were enrolled in an advanced course for Russian heritage speakers. The participants were born either in the former Soviet Union or are members of a family in which at least one parent is a native speaker of Russian.

Data from surveys and interviews reveal three general strategies to self-labeling: 1) identification through negation (“I am not (Russian/American/Ukrainian etc.”); 2) combinatory identification (“I am “Jewish-Ukrainian-Russian”); or situational identification, when the choice of a particular ethnic identity is context-dependent. For example, the data show very often heritage speakers of Russian identify themselves with heritage identity when they can get some social rewards or benefits, or when it is socially easier to present themselves in this way.

Further discussion will include the relationship between identity construction and personality, perceptions about self and others, and the linguistic and social factors of interaction.