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Sociolinguistic Transition in Former Eastern Bloc Countries

Two Decades after the Regime Change


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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Nina Dobrushina - Multilingualism in highland Daghestan throughout the 20th century


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Nina Dobrushina

Multilingualism in highland Daghestan throughout the 20th century1

1 Introduction

The Republic of Daghestan is, linguistically and ethnically, the densest and most diverse area in the Russian Federation or in Europe. About forty languages are spoken in its territory of 50,000 square km (Figure 1). Most languages of Daghestan belong to the East Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) family, but there are also speakers of three Turkic (Kumyk, Nogai, Azerbaijani) and two Indo-European languages (Tat and Russian). East Caucasian is a language family of a considerable temporal depth, comparable with or deeper than, e.g., Indo-European. Even the closest languages within one group, such as Lezgian and Agul in the Lezgic branch, may be linguistically distant, beyond mutual intelligibility.

Russian is very widespread nowadays. Legally, it is only one of the fourteen official languages of the Republic, but functionally its position is exceptional, since it acts as a Daghestanian inter-ethnic lingua franca (i.e., a communication means not native to the speakers of either of the communicating groups; cf. Magomedov 2010; Daniel et al. 2011).

Daghestan is a mountainous land. Though it is adjacent to the Caspian Sea and the vast lowlands, before the 20th century most people lived in the mountains. There were several reasons for Daghestanians to prefer mountains: they provided natural protection from invasions, the climate was milder (lowlands are hot and damp), and malaria, rife in the lowlands, did not reach there. ← 75 | 76 →

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