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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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Polish Texts


Researchers describing the Polish spoken in the North-Eastern Borderlands have always highlighted its stratification. Three variants of Polish functioning in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania are usually distinguished. The authors of Brasławszczyzna write of standard Polish, represented by people with pre-war links to the Polish education system; the Vilnius dialect of the language, preserved among the older generation of the local nobility; and mixed Polish, which lacks standard Polish norms, and whose text is formed from linguistic components of various origins – Polish, Belarusian or Russian, influencing its individual character.205 Describing the sociolinguistic situation of the Kovno region, Anna Zielińska identifies three variants of Polish: high, noble, and peasant. She writes that the high variant is defined as being very close to literary Polish, with little internal differentiation. The noble variant is characterised by a number of Lithuanian interferences resulting from active bilingualism, as well as by internal differentiation. The peasant variant is very close to the noble one, but with an even larger number of interferences. The authors of both divisions emphasise the links between linguistic diversity and the former social differences of the inhabitants of present-day Lithuania and Belarus. In their research on the entire region of the North-Eastern Borderland, Grek-Pabisowa and Maryniakowa divide the Polish in use there into the cultural variant and the speech of the peasant class (dialect),206 pointing to its areal diversity.207

The research cited above documents the state of the Polish spoken in the North-Eastern Borderlands...

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