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Vanishing Languages in Context

Ideological, Attitudinal and Social Identity Perspectives

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Edited By Martin Pütz and Neele Mundt

This volume grew out of the 36 th International LAUD Symposium, which was held in March 2014 at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Landau, Germany. There is general consensus among language experts that slightly more than half of today’s 7,000 languages are under severe threat of extinction even within fifty to one hundred years. The 13 papers contained in this volume explore the dramatic loss of linguistic diversity, why this matters, and what can be done and achieved to document and support endangered languages especially in the context of an ever increasing globalized world. The issue of vanishing languages is discussed from a variety of methodologies and perspectives: sociolinguistics, language ecology, language contact, language policy/planning, attitudes and linguistic inequalities.
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Heiko F. Marten & Sanita Lazdiņa - Latgalian in Latvia: How a minority language community gains voice during societal negotiations about the status of two major languages

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Heiko F. Marten

Tallinn University, Estonia

Sanita Lazdiņa

Rēzekne University College, Latvia

Latgalian in Latvia: How a minority language community gains voice during societal negotiations about the status of two major languages

Abstract This paper discusses how the regional language of Latgalian in Latvia has benefitted from societal discourse on the antagonism between speakers of Latvian and Russian in Latvia. Triggered by the 2012 referendum on Russian as a possible second state language of Latvia, Latvian politics (exemplified by politicians’ statements since 2012 as well as by 2014 election manifestoes) as well as society at large (displayed by e.g. increased attention in the educational sector and the media) have started to devote considerably more attention to the region of Latgale, including its cultural and linguistic heritage. The paper thereby argues that speakers of Latgalian have gained a noteworthy increase in voice, even though the future of the variety is still considered to be uncertain.

Keywords: Latgalian; Latvia; Latvian; Russian; regional languages; language policy; referendum; linguistic minorities; ethnolinguistic vitality

1. Introduction

This paper discusses recent changes in the societal status of Latgalian, a regional language mostly spoken in the highly multilingual region of Latgale in Eastern Latvia. It shows how speakers of Latgalian have since 2012 experienced a remarkable increase in voice, triggered by a considerable change of attitudes and policies in Latvian society and by the Latvian state. At...

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