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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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Eastern Slavic Texts


The texts that I refer to as Eastern Slavic were mostly recorded in Eastern Belarus. Only the transcription of the last interview, with a young man, is from Grodno.

The interlocutors from Eastern Belarus do not use Polish and do not always understand it, although they often use Polish church service books. The below statements have the characteristics of a mixed code, although in each case the individual features of the language should be noted.

Bezchynne (Mohilev District)

The text was transcribed in the Belarusian-Russian borderland. The informer’s statement contains characteristics of north-eastern Belarusian dialects.


- А po͜ pol’sk’i možna s vam’i pagavar’'it’?

- Ńet, ja n’i mah'u razhav'aryvac’. Čytac’ čytaju, ks’ionžačku čytała, jak hłazy v’'iʒ’il’i, a s’ijč'as i čytac’ ńi mah'u sau̯s’'im, i razhav'aryvac’ pa ͜ pol’sk’i toža ńi mah'u.

Reading Polish church service books

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