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Sociolinguistic Transition in Former Eastern Bloc Countries

Two Decades after the Regime Change

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Edited By Marián Sloboda, Petteri Laihonen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

This volume offers empirical perspectives on the current sociolinguistic situations in former Eastern Bloc countries. Its seventeen chapters analyse phenomena such as language choice, hierarchies and ideologies in multilingualism, language policies, minority languages in new legal, educational, business and migratory contexts, as well as the position of English in the region. The authors use various methodological approaches – including surveys, discourse analyses, descriptions and analyses of linguistic landscapes, and ethnography – in order to deal with sociolinguistic issues in eight countries and seven regions, from Brandenburg, Germany, in the West to Sakhalin, Russia, in the East.

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Hèctor Alòs i Font - The Chuvash language in the Chuvash Republic: An example of the rapid decline of one of Russia’s major languages

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Hèctor Alòs i Font

The Chuvash language in the Chuvash Republic: An example of the rapid decline of one of Russia’s major languages

Chuvashia, a little republic in the multilingual Volga region with 1.2 million inhabitants, presents an interesting language situation in the Russian Federation. Chuvash is one of Russia’s most spoken languages (the fifth in number of people that considers it their mother tongue). Along with Russian it is an official language of the Chuvash Republic. Education by means of Chuvash has been widespread in villages at least since the 1920s, and the language has been taught to almost all urban and rural schoolchildren through schooling for the last 20 years. Chuvashes are a majority in both cities and villages. According to 2010 Russian census data, Chuvash is spoken by over half of the population in Chuvashia. In theory, this would all point to a relatively safe state of the language. Nevertheless, Chuvash is quickly losing ground.

This is not at all an isolated case in Russia. Other official languages in Russia’s republics are losing a considerable quantity of speakers, according to census data. The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley 2010) lists 131 languages in Russia as endangered, which accounts for almost all of Russia’s native languages, except Russian and Tatar. Visibly, a huge language shift is occurring in Russia, and it is affecting even large ethnic groups with republican structures. This trend has...

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