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Conversations with God

Multilingualism among the Catholics in Belarus in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries. Sociolinguistic study


Ewa Golachowska

The book discusses the sociolinguistic status and prestige of the Polish language and the changes in the national identity of Catholics in Belarus due to the switch from Polish to Belarusian in the Catholic Church. The research shows that the national identification of Catholics in Belarus is changing. The oldest generations most often self-identify as Polish. For those from the middle and youngest generations, the link between nationality and their religion is not obvious as being a Catholic does not exclude a Belarusian self-identity. Belonging to the Catholic Church results from being baptized in the Catholic rite, while national identity can be defined in many ways and re-defined by various life experiences. Catholicism has proven to be a less debated and more durable category than nationality.

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2 Multilingualism of the Sacred Sphere


Languages in the Sacred Sphere and Their Communicative Function

Finding a precise definition for the term “language of religion” is a task that interests theologians, linguists and people involved in religious life. According to Ryszard Pankiewicz, this term can denote the scientific variant of language, used by scholars of religious studies, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists of religion and theologians, as well as the language of biblical texts, sermons, liturgical texts, encyclicals, pastoral letters, catechisms, statements associated with worship and religious practice, the language of catechesis, private prayers, and religious fiction.114 Irena Bajerowa’s classic definition states that “religious language is a variant of general language that is a means of communication in religious life”.115 Małgorzata Nowak defines the language of religion as a means of communication in religious life concerning religious issues and encompassing language as part of religious activities, such as the liturgy or prayer, as well as the language of talking about God and the human approach to God, and therefore various testimonies, opinion journalism, poetry and religious prose. Nowak identifies three subtypes: sacred language, profane language and colloquial religious language.116 Many discussions of religious language emphasise the fact that what makes it unique is neither its function nor an appropriate vocabulary, but rather its belonging to the sacred sphere. This way of thinking resembles sociolinguistics, which traditionally highlights the religious sphere among other areas of language use. The different rules governing such language are also often stressed, since in this case it is...

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