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Linguistic Construction of Ethnic Borders

Edited By Peter Rosenberg, Konstanze Jungbluth and Dagna Zinkhahn Rhobodes

This volume focuses on the linguistic constructs involved in ethnic borders. Ethnic borders have proven themselves to be surprisingly long-lived: in nearly all European countries and beyond, border demarcation, exclusion of foreigners, and minority conflicts are some of the most persistent challenges for nations and societies. Which linguistic factors play a role in the formation of these borders, especially those drawn along ethnic lines? Which linguistic constructs contribute to the negotiation, establishment and maintenance of ethnic groups and identities? Under which conditions can processes of linguistic convergence, hybrids, or transcultural identities be observed?
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The Cyrillic Script as a Boundary Marker between “Insiders” and “Outsiders”: Metalinguistic Discourse about Script Choices in Slavic-German Bilingual Computer-Mediated Communication

Bernhard Brehmer

(Greifswald)

The Cyrillic Script as a Boundary Marker between “Insiders” and “Outsiders”: Metalinguistic Discourse about Script Choices in Slavic-German Bilingual Computer-Mediated Communication

Abstract: Gegenstand des Beitrags sind soziolinguistische Implikationen der Schriftwahl für das Verfassen von Beiträgen zu Diskussionsforen im sozialen Netzwerk StudiVZ, die sich an Nutzer mit russisch-, ukrainisch- oder bulgarischsprachigem Hintergrund richten. In diesen Foren finden sich sowohl Beiträge auf Deutsch, als auch in der slavischen Herkunftssprache der Nutzer. Für die in der slavischen Herkunftssprache verfassten Beiträge lassen sich unterschiedliche Schriftpräferenzen beobachten: Während einige Nutzer sich konsequent der kyrillischen Schrift bedienen, neigen andere dazu, ihre slavischen Beiträge in lateinischer Schrift zu formulieren. Im Artikel werden die sich daran anknüpfenden Debatten in den untersuchten Gruppen bezüglich des symbolischen Status der kyrillischen Schrift und der Legitimität der Nutzung des lateinischen Alphabets zur schriftlichen Kommunikation mit anderen bilingualen Studierenden in der slavischen Herkunftssprache analysiert. Besonders auffällig ist, dass derartige metaschriftliche Diskussionen nur in den Gruppen zu finden sind, die sich an Studierende aus dem russischsprachigen Raum richten. Hier wird der kyrillischen Schrift eine wichtige Bedeutung für die symbolische Konstitution einer „russischen“ Identität der jeweiligen Gruppenmitglieder zugewiesen, die „echte Russen“ von anderen russischsprachigen Zuwanderern mit geringeren sprachlichen und kulturellen Kompetenzen (z. B. russlanddeutsche Spätaussiedler) abgrenzt. Befürworter der Nutzung des lateinischen Alphabets verweisen demgegenüber auf instrumentelle Vorteile, v. a. die leichte Zugänglichkeit der lateinischen Schrift für alle Nutzer, unabhängig von ihrer individuellen (schriftlichen) Kompetenz im Russischen, und die einfachere technische Handhabung. Von keinem der beiden Lager wird dagegen die Nutzung des lateinischen Alphabets als charakteristisches Merkmal des Kommunikationsmediums Internet, als Mittel der Abgrenzung gegenüber monolingualen Vertretern aus den Herkunftsländern oder gar als symbolisches Emblem einer eigenen polykulturellen slavisch-deutschen Identität gesehen.

Schlagworte: Schriftwahl, Zweisprachigkeit, Identitätskonstruktion, computervermittelte Kommunikation

Keywords: script choice, bilingualism, identity formation, computer-mediated communication ← 55 | 56 →

1.  Introduction

The present paper explores the sociolinguistic implications of script choice in an immigration context. Based on public debates about script choices in bilingual discussion forums of a local German social network, my aim will be to “show how scriptural practices both index and constitute social hierarchies, identities and relationships”. (Sebba 2012, p. 10)1 Language and script choices quite obviously mirror language ideologies of the bilingual users engaged in these discussion forums, and therefore function as a boundary marker between different members of the Slavic-German immigrant community.

Sociological, media and cultural studies have repeatedly shown that the advance of new communication technologies, including the development of the Internet, significantly contributes to maintaining relationships with the homeland in diaspora communities.2 Recent linguistic research has recognized the potential of online resources such as social networks for investigating multilingual practices which are not restricted to immigration contexts.3 My focus will be on online resources that aim to establish national networks between members who share a common Slavic background, but currently live in a German-speaking environment. These virtual spaces thus offer their users a place where they “can digitally ← 56 | 57 → ‘hang out’ and share their stories”. (Mitra 2003, p. 1019)4 Previous research has shown that these virtual spaces represent sites for “the productive construction of new hybrid identities and cultures through the active, simultaneous process of maintenance and negotiation between the poles of an original home and a newly acquired host culture.” (Sinclair / Cunningham 2000, p. 15)5 Linguistic reflections of such dual identities and the creative exploitation of multilingual proficiencies for various communicative purposes form a core topic in research on multilingualism.6 Thus, recent research on the relationship between language and identity in multilingual settings has called into question the static equation of languages and identities in the sense of the classical distinction between a ‘we-’ vs. ‘they-code’ by Gumperz7. New concepts have emerged which view clear-cut borders between languages as a mere ideological construct that does not apply to current multilingual (online) practices of young people in a globalized world. Concepts like “crossing”8, “polylanguaging”9, “translanguaging”10 or “metrolingualism”11 build on the assumption that there are rather flexible relations between language, ethnicity, nation and territory, which allows speakers “to manipulate the resources they have available to them”12. Thus, multilingual speakers often transcend language boundaries in their discursive practices, which embraces “the full range of linguistic performances” (Wei 2011, p. 1223)13 that multilingual language users ← 57 | 58 → have at their disposal. This employment of linguistic features that come from different sources is not even linked to the degree of proficiency in the involved languages.14 Scripts are one of those features which can be creatively used as a means of individual self-presentation in the context of their ideological association with certain languages, groups or situations.

2.  Scripts as symbols of identity

Sebba (2007, p. 82)15 stresses that scripts and orthographies “have functioned in different times and places as potent symbols of both nation and religion”. This is especially true for the Slavic cultural space, which is characterized by the use of many different alphabets to represent the Slavic languages at different points in history.16 Besides the longer-lasting and geographically more widespread use of Glagolitic, Cyrillic and Latin, the Arabic, Greek and Hebrew scripts were also used at one time or another to render certain Slavic languages. The distribution of these alphabets was clearly influenced by religion: “Generally, there has always been a close correlation between alphabet and religion, though not necessarily one of cause and effect.”17 Thus, there was always a close connection between Roman Catholic faith and the use of the Latin alphabet (“Slavia latina”: Poles, Sorbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats), and between the Orthodox faith and the use of the Cyrillic script (“Slavia orthodoxa”: Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Serbs).18

There are many instances in the history of the Slavic languages which hint at the high symbolic value that was (and still is) attributed to alphabets and orthographies. For reasons of space, I will limit myself to just three rather arbitrarily chosen examples: (1) The Glagolitic script, which was – according to most ← 58 | 59 → scholars – the first script in which Slavic texts were written19, continued to be used in Roman Catholic Croatia for religious purposes at least until the early nineteenth century (however, restricted to some regions, especially the Adriatic islands). Cubberley20 describes the reason for the continued use of the Glagolitic script for many centuries in church service as follows: “The apparent reasons are somewhat paradoxical, in that these were the areas dominated from early on by the Roman Church […], so that one would expect Latinica to have been de rigueur. In fact, Glagolitic became the symbol of (partial or nominal) independence from Rome; it was tolerated by Rome as a small concession in permitting its continued influence where it mattered (in this case in the otherwise Byzantine-dominated Balkans) […].” (2) More recently, the symbolic status of alphabets and the close link between alphabets and/or orthographies and religion became obvious with the collapse of former Yugoslavia. Whereas both the Cyrillic and Latin script could officially be used in Yugoslavia for writing “Serbo-Croatian”21, Croatia dropped this digraphia22 immediately after gaining independence in 1990, thus adopting a Latin-only policy. Partially as a response to that, radical nationalist groups in Serbia insisted not only that the government should ban the use of the Latin script (Latinica) for writing Serbian, but even that it should cleanse the Cyrillic alphabet of letters that were introduced from the Latinica in the 19th century (especially the letter <j>). However, a majority of linguistic moderates argued for keeping the Latinica (and, consequently, the digraphia) as a fact of their cultural past, but also due to economic and political reasons, i.e. they considered the ability to work with both alphabets as a means to facilitate contact with the Western world.23 (3) Political and economic reasons also formed the basis for a discussion about introducing Latin script for writing Bulgarian when Bulgaria ← 59 | 60 → was considered a candidate for entering the European Union.24 This proposal was met with resistance in wide circles of Bulgarian society, one argument being the strong association of Cyrillic script with the Orthodox culture of Bulgaria, and its general national symbolic value.

Many more examples (including debates about reforms of alphabets or orthographical systems) could be adduced here, but the cited instances should suffice in proving that choices in writing systems always played an important role in nation and identity-building practices and ideologies in the Slavic world. Until today, scripts and spellings function as important identity markers and as “an index of political loyalty and religious allegiance”25. This becomes especially evident in times of social, political, economic and cultural transition, e.g. after the collapse of Yugoslavia or the former Soviet Union26: “Orthographic battles are common in situations where identity and nationhood are under negotiation; this is because orthographic [and script, B.B.] systems cannot be conceptualized simply as reducing speech to writing, but rather […] are symbols that carry historical, cultural, and politicized meanings.” (Woolard / Schieffelin 1994, p. 65)27 These conclusions are normally drawn with regard to whole peoples or nations. My aim will be to adapt the alignment of scripts with temporal and geographical identifications to the study of script use in an immigration context, where transitions figure prominently not on a societal, but individual level. However, before investigating the role of the Cyrillic script for indexing and creating social structures in an immigration context, some comments should be made about possible technological limitations for using alphabets other than the Latin alphabet in computer-mediated (or electronic) communication. ← 60 | 61 →

3.  Technological and social aspects of script choice in electronic communication

Script choices are “usually made by tradition, by governments, or by the language users collectively […]. Even when digraphia exists in theory, […] the individual language user rarely has a free choice of which to use. Where true digraphia does exist, however, the choice of one or other by an individual is almost certain to have social meaning […].”28 Especially in the early days of the Internet, users who speak a language that is normally not written in the Latin alphabet (e.g., Greek, Russian or Japanese) were clearly restricted in their script choice. This was due to the fact that “the early internet operated on the seven-bit ASCII character encoding set (first published in 1967), which provided for the encoding of 128 characters based on the English alphabet, and therefore excluded the representation of languages with non-Latin script.” (Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 224)29 Thus, it was only after the gradual development of the Unicode character-encoding standard since the early 1990s that the representation of symbols from a wide variety of writing systems on computer screens became increasingly available from a technical perspective (ibid.). However, as Androutsopoulos30 pointed out on the example of Latin-alphabet Greek (LAG, “Greeklish”), “its actual availability to individual users was still limited by their access to hardware and software facilities. This gap between technical possibility and individual availability led to the persistence of LAG as the lowest common denominator throughout the 1990s.” Thus, informal Latinization of languages not written with Latin characters was the only option for participating in computer-mediated communication by using one’s own native language, both for communication within the homeland and for transnational exchanges.31 In the 21st century, however, technological developments rendered ← 61 | 62 → it more or less unnecessary to resort to Latin characters when using, e.g., Russian for electronic communication. Even in cases where no Cyrillic fonts are available on a local computer (e.g., in Internet cafés outside the Cyrillic-writing area), there is always the possibility to use transliteration tools which are freely accessible on the Internet, thus allowing one to convert a Latinized Russian text into Cyrillic very easily.32 However, Latinization of languages written in another alphabet than the Latin still does occur on the Internet. For Greeklish, Androutsopoulos33 states that “[i]n contexts of transnational communication, such as mailing lists with worldwide-dispersed members, ‘Greeklish’ has ensured, and still does ensure, that even the few users without access to the Greek script will be able to participate. In sum, even though an increasing number of Greek internet users had access to the Greek script by the late 1990s, LAG was so firmly established among early adopters of computer-mediated communication that it was referred to as the ‘old writing method’ [...]. One might suspect that it was in this transitional period, when both scripts were available to an increasing number of users, that symbolic values of LAG such as the ‘code of the internet’ or the ‘code of the e-mail’ [...] were established.” Thus, on the one hand, the persistent use of Latinized versions is firmly linked to the medium where they initially occurred (i.e. electronic communication), including all connotations surrounding the medium and its users. On the other hand, they occur in transnational and diaspora contexts, be it due to technical constraints or “other reasons, such as convenience, convention, audience considerations or literacy competence”.34 At least in the first case, the simultaneous use of both the native and the Latin script for rendering the native ← 62 | 63 → language in computer-mediated interaction35 has provoked intense public discussions (both between Internet users and in “traditional” media) about increasing Latinization being a threat to national identity.36 Within immigration contexts, to which we turn now, the substitution of Cyrillic characters by the Latin alphabet might be linked to other factors as well: The most important factor is a possible lack of literacy in the home language, at least for those users who were already born in the host country or immigrated with their parents at a very early age, i.e. before entering school in the home country. In these cases, the acquisition of literacy in the home language often depends on voluntary efforts on the side of the children and/or their parents, which some families may not be able to afford.37 Furthermore, even in the case of successfully acquired biliteracy, there is a lack of possibilities to use this proficiency in everyday life. Computer-mediated communication with relatives and friends in the home country or within (trans)national diasporic networks provides one of the very few possibilities to practice writing skills in the home language.

4.  Data collection and research questions

The data for the current study were gathered in the social network StudiVZ. Unlike its global counterpart Facebook, StudiVZ38 (= German abbreviation for Studentenverzeichnis ‘Students’ Directory’) is a social networking platform that specifically addresses college and university students who live in a German-speaking environ ← 63 | 64 → ment (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). It was launched in November 2005 and rapidly developed into one of the most successful online media in Germany. The platform reached its peak in November 2009 with 6.2 million registered users.39 Due to its success, similar versions were launched that focus on secondary school students (SchülerVZ, February 2007 – April 2013) and non-students (meinVZ, since February 2008). As of 2010, all VZ Networks together claimed a total user base of over 16 million users. However, the numbers started to drop already in 2009, with the global competitor Facebook surpassing the VZ networks in the number of registered account holders in Germany since April 2011. In August 2012, only 519,000 visitors of StudiVZ were counted. Despite this rapid decline in popularity, StudiVZ was chosen as the source for data collection precisely because of its decidedly German character.40 This gives a degree of certainty that the users with Slavic background who engage in the group discussions live in a German-speaking environment, and thus can be considered to have at least some proficiency in German. The same can be assumed with regard to the overwhelming majority of their audience.

StudiVZ provides its registered members a lot of features that are comparable to other social networking sites. For the purpose of the current study, the function allowing every registered member to organize a group on a specific topic is of special importance. These groups have their own pages and offer discussion forums with different threads that are open to all group members. By browsing through the list of groups, one encounters a huge number of groups that obviously target an audience with biographic roots outside of the German-speaking area. This orientation towards users who share a common cultural and/or linguistic background is often directly reflected in the groups’ names: Made in CCCP ‚Made in USSR‘, Russen ‚Russians‘, Ukrainci v Berlini – Ukrainer in Berlin ‚Ukrainians in Berlin‘, HRVATSKA-moja domovina ‚Croatia – my homeland‘ etc. These groups and the discussion forums they provide mostly revolve around topics related to political and cultural events in their home countries, or to the situation and life ← 64 | 65 → of the respective ethnic and/or linguistic community in the host countries Germany, Austria or Switzerland, including questions of inter-ethnic relationships. Transnational diasporic relations are almost never addressed, which clearly shows the local base of the users. Another factor that contributes to this local character is language use. Generally speaking, the discussion forums mirror language preferences of its members, ranging from posts exclusively written in the Slavic home language, to messages written only in German. Furthermore, various types of code-switching and code-mixing including languages other than the Slavic home language and German, can be observed.41 This makes these groups a very interesting object for studying multilingual, but also multiscriptural practices of their members. Although precise sociolinguistic information about the individual users is, of course, missing, we can deduce the typical profile of a member of these groups by following some of the core participants who show up in different groups related to the same cultural or linguistic background. Since all of these groups provide discussion threads where members can share their individual stories with other co-members, it becomes evident that the average group member represents the second generation of immigrants from the respective countries of origin. Most users claim that they were either born in the host country or entered a German-speaking environment before puberty.42 However, there are also a few first-generation immigrants who finished their schooling in their respective home countries, along with occasional native German participants who are – for various reasons – interested in Slavic cultures or languages.

For the current study, I examined groups that target an audience with roots in Slavic countries, whose languages are normally written using the Cyrillic script: Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. Table 1 displays the groups that were selected for analysis, the number of registered (but not necessarily active) members, the ← 65 | 66 → number of discussion threads, and the overall number of posts. The last column indicates the number of posts that were included into the analysis, amounting to about 1,500 posts for each of the three examined linguistic groups.43

Tab. 1:  Overview of selected groups and number of analysed posts

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As a first step, I investigated the distribution of messages regarding the languages represented in the posts. The ratio of posts that were exclusively written in the Slavic home language varied between 65.6 % (Bulgarian groups) and 40.1 % (Ukrainian groups), thus indicating a relatively high loyalty towards the Slavic home languages if compared to the web presence of other immigrant groups in Germany (see Brehmer 2013 for details). If all posts that contain at least a single element in the Slavic home language – which is inserted into a German (or English) base text – are taken together, the ratio of these posts rises to 79.3 % (Bulgarian), 56.3 % (Russian) and 48.0 % (Ukrainian), respectively.44 In Brehmer (2015), I examined the ratio of messages where Slavic passages are written in Cyrillic, as compared to the number of posts where the users resort to Latin characters for rendering the Slavic parts of their message. It turns out that between 69.7 % ← 66 | 67 → (Bulgarian) and 50.2 % (Ukrainian) of the posts containing at least one insertion in a Slavic language show the use of Cyrillic script. However, the use of Cyrillic characters clearly depends on the length of the insertions in the Slavic home languages. The more Slavic elements a post contains, the higher the probability that the user resorts to Cyrillic script for rendering Slavic passages in his/her post. This tendency is valid for all three linguistic groups.45 Furthermore, some users quite consciously apply different scripts in their messages: While in most cases, script-switching is bound to the alternation of languages in the message (Slavic parts – Cyrillic, German/English parts – Latin), both scripts are sometimes used as contextualization devices, even in cases where the whole contribution is written in Slavic.46

For the current study, I concentrated on the analysis of stretches of metalinguistic discourse regarding the use of Cyrillic and/or Latin script for writing the Slavic home language, which sporadically show up in the analysed posts. Thus, the main research questions to be dealt with in the following sections will be: (1) Is the use of Cyrillic script treated as an emblematic boundary marker within corporate self-presentation that differentiates between „real“ Slavic (in-group) and „Germanized“ Slavic (out-group) members? How do the users perceive the use of the Latin script to render Russian, Ukrainian or Bulgarian? (2) Do the three examined groups differ with regard to considering the Cyrillic script an identity marker?

5.  Results

5.1.  Some general observations on debates about script choice in StudiVZ

Before analysing the metalinguistic discourse surrounding script choice that unfolds in single discussion threads of the selected groups, some general remarks about attitudes towards scripts in StudiVZ should be made. First, the fact that script choice seems to bother people is already indicated by some group names that explicitly refer to knowledge and/or (ab)use of Cyrillic script in the social network: Ich kann kyrillisch!47 ‚I know Cyrillic‘ (German), Gegen kyrillisch in ← 67 | 68 → deutschen VZ-Gruppennamen ‚Against Cyrillic in German names of VZ-groups‘ (German), Венн ду дас лезен каннст ‚If you can read this‘ (German), Аз пиша на кирилица! ‚I write in Cyrillic‘ (Bulgarian) or Български на кирилица ‚Bulgarian in Cyrillic‘ (Bulgarian). While the first three groups actually address all StudiVZ-members who have (n)ever acquired the Cyrillic script in their life, independent of a certain ethnic or linguistic background, the latter two seemingly attribute a symbolic value to the use of the native Cyrillic script for writing Bulgarian in forums of StudiVZ. However, these two groups have hardly attracted any members, and consequently did not provoke any discussion regarding their topic. This observation mirrors the fact that metalinguistic discussions about script choice for writing the three languages under focus exclusively occur in the groups addressing an audience with Russian cultural background. While questions concerning language choice for contributing messages to the discussion threads figure prominently in the examined Bulgarian and Ukrainian groups as well, almost no explicit attention is paid to script choice when posts are delivered in the Slavic home language.48 Thus, already at this stage of the analysis, we can conclude that script choice stipulates metalinguistic discussions only in the Russian groups. We can only carefully speculate about the reasons for this general result, especially if we take into account the rather limited amount of groups and posts that were included into the analysis. For the Bulgarian groups, one possible reason for the absence of metalinguistic discussions regarding script choice could be the high share of posts written in the Cyrillic script (69.7 %, which is the highest score for all three selected linguistic groups). Thus, messages where passages in Bulgarian are rendered in Latin characters occur rather sporadically, which offers fewer possibilities to attack the “abuse” of the Latin script.49 More importantly, the members of the Bulgarian groups seem to represent a different immigration profile as compared to the Ukrainian and Russian groups. The proportion of first-generation immigrants who came to Germany before entering university (especially after Bulgaria had joined the European Union in 2007) is seemingly higher than in the ← 68 | 69 → other two linguistic groups.50 Thus, using Latin script for rendering Bulgarian is obviously not so much linked to a presumed missing alphabetization in the home language, but rather reflects the symbolic connotation of Latinica as being the script of the Internet (see section 3 above). The absence of script debates in the groups addressed to an audience with Ukrainian background is harder to explain. Given the lively debates about language choice in the investigated groups, it seems to be that script choice is simply a matter of secondary importance for most of the users, if compared to the problem of whether to choose Ukrainian, Russian or “neutral” German for posting messages.51

Another factor that limits variation in script choice are attempts of “organized management” on the part of group administrators who try to regulate the use of languages and scripts by group members.52 Thus, some group administrators formulate rules that group members in the discussion threads are supposed to obey. These rules also often refer to issues of language and/or script choice. To quote just one example: Rule 3 imposed by the administrators of the group Are you gangsters? – No, we are Russians reads as follows: “Please write in German or Russian: Russian written with German letters is often incomprehensible; therefore, please use translit.ru or comparable tools if you do not have a Russian keyboard”53. However, a lot of users neglect these rules, which sometimes leads to the elimination of Russian messages in Latin script by the group’s administrators. This again often provokes harsh responses by other users, who view these actions as abuse of administrative power, and announce that they will resign from the group if ← 69 | 70 → this practice continues. These exchanges often form the starting point for metalinguistic debates about the legitimacy of using Latin characters to render posts in Russian. These debates will be analysed in the next section.

5.2.  Metalinguistic debates about script choices in the examined Russian groups

Many core users of the investigated groups never resort to Latin script for posting messages in Russian, but rather use Cyrillic consistently. Others alternate between Latin and Cyrillic scripts, some of them dependent upon the language of the post, some use both scripts even when writing Russian.54 However, there is a third group of users who obviously feel more comfortable sticking to the Latin alphabet for Russian posts. This practice often stimulates spirited discussions among group members which are clearly shaped “by a ‘polarization of the community’, in which different ‘schools of thought’ collide” (Mitra 1998, p. 64).55 Sometimes, the issue of script choice even forms the topic of whole threads. Thus, the thread “Abstimmung: Russisch mit deutschen Buchstaben schreiben?” (Voting: Writing Russian with German characters?) in the group Russen ‘Russians’ is dedicated to an exchange of views among group members debating whether it is legitimate to use Latin script for rendering Russian posts. I will focus on the debate in this thread in more detail since it contains the whole range of arguments which are raised in favor and against the use of the Latin script for writing messages in Russian.

A clear majority of users who take part in this discussion does not meet the use of Latin characters with approval. Some of them even go so far as to mobilize the knowledge and use of the Cyrillic script to index boundaries within the Russian-speaking community of the forum: Stanislav S. formulates this ideological view on script choice succinctly by stating that “Russians should write in Russian!”, where ‘Russian’ here obviously is meant to refer to the use of the Cyrillic script. Artem S. also explicitly ethnicizes matters of script choice: “Repatriates56 considering ← 70 | 71 → themselves as Russians do not know Russian. They write in a Latinized version, but in an incredibly skewed one.” Here, a division is made between “real” (ethnic) Russians who are supposed to know Russian and to write it properly (i.e. using the Cyrillic script), and some “Pseudo-Russians” who claim to have a Russian identity, but are not able to use the corresponding identity markers, e.g. the Cyrillic script. An immediate link between proficiency in Russian and knowledge of Cyrillic as an inalienable part of Russian language competence is also emphasized by other members, e.g. by Natalie Z.: “If a person claims that he knows a language, this means that he can speak it, read it and WRITE it! And to write Russian means to write in Cyrillic.” Others perceive a missing knowledge of the Cyrillic script as a “lack of education” (which means that all users who use the Latin script for writing Russian are considered to be “mentally retarded”), or stress the role of Cyrillic as an untouchable symbol of Russian cultural heritage. An anonymous user puts it as follows: “Language figures as a carrier of any culture. If you don’t know a language you belong to the respective culture only partially, if at all.” Thus, not knowing the Cyrillic script is considered by some users to be a ‘betrayal’ of Russian ethnic or at least cultural and linguistic identity. Following Androutsopoulos57, we can classify these opinions expressed against the use of Latinized Russian as “ideological” in nature, where “orthography [and script choices, B.B.] can be seen as the site of potentially intense struggles over identity and power, in which issues like the purpose of literacy and the status of languages are central, and orthographic characters […] may be imbued with a symbolic meaning that makes their phonemic symbolism and learnability of secondary importance.” (Sebba 1998, p. 20)58 Such ideological arguments are also provided by one of the administrators of the group, Violetta S., who uses this and other threads as a platform for defending the anti-Latin script policy that she is trying to impose on the others. She often resorts to script-switching in the opposite direction, i.e. to rendering of German sentences by using the Cyrillic script, to demonstrate that there is an asymmetry between the two scripts in relation to language choice: “Why does no one type German with Russian characters”? Ultimately, this is also used as an argument against the view of some proponents of Latinized Russian that using the Latin script supports the speed and ease of processing Russian posts (see below). She ← 71 | 72 → considers Latinized Russian as a mistreatment of the Russian language, and as a lack of respect towards the other users (“treat the Russian language and your interlocutors with respect, you don’t distort German by using Cyrillic either”). Other users emphasize aesthetic aspects why Latinized Russian should be avoided: “To read Russian words written in Latin letters is the same as reading something written with shit on a fence: everything seems clear, yet it is somehow unpleasant! So dear fellow countrymen, write in Cyrillic, or at least in German!” (Leonid G.). Even users who support a much more tolerant position towards Latinized Russian agree that Russian written in Cyrillic looks better: “Russian words ‘in Russian’ certainly look better!” (Anton F.). However, the most commonly uttered objection against the use of Latin characters to represent Russian posts is readability. Opponents of Latinized Russian complain that it is hard to decipher, especially with regard to the different solutions that are used to render Russian sounds that are missing in the German sound system, first of all the various sibilants: “I’m also against it [i.e. Latinized Russian, B.B.] – first, because sometimes the letters ‘ж,ш,щ,з,ч’ are coded in a way that you don’t fucking understand what’s the word” (Max S.). The lack of a generally accepted transliteration or transcription scheme leads according to the opponents of Latinized Russian to chaos and confusion which hampers efficiency of communication. Difficulty in processing is often documented by quoting posts of users who use rather unusual transliteration or transcription schemes, which forces the readers of these posts to “break their eyes” (lomat’ glaza) when trying to read these messages.59 This is why some users claim that they refuse to read Latinized Russian posts at all: “I often do not read Russian texts, which are written in Latin script, if they are longer than one line. I don’t have enough patience” (Margarita W.). This can be read as a warning to proponents of Latinized Russian that their contributions could be ignored precisely because of the “wrong” script choice – in this case not even language choice, since posts in German are explicitly allowed and recommended if group members lack literacy in the home language. Latinized Russian seems to be increasingly stigmatized by most group members because, in their opinion, all users nowadays have the ← 72 | 73 → technical option of writing Russian messages in Cyrillic characters: “With many more or less new computers one has the option to switch to Cyrillic, and it is possible to get acquainted with the Russian keyboard within two or three weeks” (Margarita W.). Even in cases where the computer offers no technical solution, there is always the option of using transliteration tools that are freely available on the Internet (like translit.ru). Thus, if users do not take advantage of these technical possibilities and still stick to Latinized Russian, this can be considered a kind of laziness or disrespect towards the other users. Androutsopoulos60 interprets this kind of argument as an “autonomous” view of script choice, which is “based on the tacit assumption that the mere existence of a technological solution must by itself lead to the disappearance of script variation”.

However, not all members show a hostile attitude towards the use of Latin characters for composing Russian messages. One group of participants in this discussion exhibits a tolerant position regarding the use of Latinized Russian. According to their views, script choice is a matter of linguistic freedom that every other member of the group ought to accept: “I somehow don’t care…. write whatever you want, if only it is legible” (Aleksandra). The user Saška-Rusalka also supports this pragmatic stance towards Latinized Russian, and even highlights that it is the content that matters, not the external form of the message. Furthermore, even in cases where posts are written in Latinized Russian, it is possible to determine whether the user has grammatical knowledge of Russian or not: “It doesn’t matter which characters – Russian stays Russian, and even when someone writes Russian in Latin characters you can tell about his/her grammatical knowledge in Cyrillic [sic!] […] It is only content that counts.” Thus, she rates grammatical attainment higher than knowledge and/or use of the Cyrillic script in assessing proficiency in the home language. Marat S. even explicitly claims the free right to decide about script choice in the forum: “As far as I am concerned, I will not let others prescribe me how I have to write.”

The third and smallest group of participants not only supports a tolerant position towards Latinized Russian, but argues for a decidedly positive evaluation of it. It is interesting to note that all advocates of Latinized Russian follow an autonomous approach towards script and orthography, which “views orthography as a ‘neutral’ technology for the representation of spoken language”61. Unlike the opponents of Latinized Russian, they do not attach symbolic and aesthetic meanings to the use of Latin characters. Their spelling choices are mainly explained by ← 73 | 74 → instrumental motivations. While at least some advocates of Greeklish, according to Androutsopoulos62, emphasize the medium-related value of the Latin script as the ‘code of the Internet’, this kind of ideological argument in favour of the use of Latinized Russian is absent from the selected discussion threads.63 In our case, users complain about the poor usability of technical resources for typing Russian: “It is very inconvenient and discriminates against all those who do not have a Russian keyboard” (Maxim M.E.). Transliteration tools are deemed useless, since even this technical solution does not work in cases where the user has problems with the basics of Russian orthography: “translit is useless when you don’t know the Russian characters and you have forgotten orthography (and this seemingly applies to a lot of us here!)” (Maxim M.E.). A more commonly shared argument among its proponents is that Latinized Russian is easier to read and write than Cyrillic Russian. An anonymous member puts it as follows: “What I want to say is that, for example, I don’t read long texts with Russian characters, because it takes too long and is working my last nerve. I can read Russian, though, but not so fast. I get much faster ahead when one writes Russian with German characters. In this case I can read it very fast and very well. Of course there are words that can be hardly written with German characters, but this is rare and these are isolated cases. Then you take yourself more time at this point in order to decipher the word, but in most cases you understand it already from the sentence context.” So, at least for some users, Latinized Russian is regarded as more convenient, faster and less demanding than Cyrillic Russian. The arguments of opponents of writing Russian with Latin characters (who claim a loss of processing ease) are countered by hinting at the fact that posts are normally quite short, which should allow every reader to come to terms with their content. Finally, one line of argumentation develops around the fact that there are a lot of group members who have good oral proficiency in Russian, but never acquired reading and writing skills in Russian. A ban on the use of Latinized Russian would, as a consequence, lead to the exclusion of this group from the discussion threads. At least they would be forced to resort to German for contributions to the threads, which would deprive them of any opportunity to practice their reading and writing skills in the home language: “Those who came to Germany at a very early age, don’t know Russian letters, but they can speak Russian well or very well. They cannot read pure Russian texts […] for them it [i.e. Latinized Russian, B.B.] is the only possibility ← 74 | 75 → to read Russian!! And to communicate in Russian!! And there are quite a few!!” (Maxim M.E.). What these users are trying to do, then, is to disassociate script choice and ethnic or linguistic identity. They refute the hostile evaluations of, and policies directed against, the use of Latinized Russian by claiming it to be a “necessary evil” which allows everyone to take part in the discussions and use the home language for this purpose. No one is discriminated against, since all of the users live in a German-speaking and writing context, and are therefore familiar with the Latin script. Latinized Russian is essentially considered an instrument of getting meanings across, but not as a means of indexing boundaries between different group members.

6.  Summary and conclusions

Script systems are socially, culturally and historically embedded units of language which can be seen as “the embodiments of […] practices of choice”64. The most obvious level of choice in a biscriptual (immigration) context is the decision for one particular script system at the expense of another. Here, social meanings that are attached to scripts become especially evident: “Given the possibility of variation, one of the forms is nearly always the standard norm, and alternative forms will be seen as deviating from them.”65 In a Russian-German bilingual context such as the one we focused on in this paper, variation between Cyrillic and Latin script for rendering messages in the home language Russian is used to represent different cultural orientations of individual groups within the Russian-speaking diaspora in Germany. In our case, it serves to construct boundaries between “ethnic” Russians and repatriates (Spätaussiedler) of German descent, at least from the perspective of some “ethnic” Russians. Thus, the use of Latinized Russian signals social distinctiveness and otherness, but mainly from the perspective of users who seemingly have acquired literacy in the home language, and therefore use the Cyrillic script consistently. Using Latin characters when writing Russian is not seen by these group members as a result of a conscious and meaningful decision on the part of the individual participants of the discussion threads, but mostly as the mere result of lacking literacy, or as an index of low proficiency in the home language. Interestingly, Latinized Russian is not used as a general symbol of a subcultural identity, or a symbol of otherness that marks the boundary between speakers of Russian living abroad and those living in the countries of origin. It is also not used as a symbol of individual multicultural or hybrid identities ← 75 | 76 → independently from language mixing, the only exception being some users who engage in script-mixing in screen names as an emblematic display of their dual identity. Script choice, then, does figure prominently in the self-ascription or self-display of group membership in local or global discourse. However, it is mainly implemented as a resource for explicitly marking the ‘we’-code when referring to other users who do not belong to the same group of the Russian-speaking diaspora (which in this case is indicated by their lacking knowledge of Cyrillic).

As can be seen from the metalinguistic debates analysed in the paper, Latinized Russian represents a rich case of aesthetic and ideological conflict. The arguments that are levelled against it combine instrumental (no technological necessity to use it any more, hard to read), aesthetic (looks “ugly”) and identity aspects (“real” Russians should write Russian properly, which means that knowledge of Cyrillic indexes in-group membership). Advocates of writing Russian with Latin characters, however, mainly resort to instrumental reasons (technology-related, ease of processing, only way to engage in exchanges conducted in Russian) for their preference, and exhibit an autonomous approach to matters of script choice. While some users challenge the normative, essentialist equation of Cyrillic script, Russian and Russian cultural identity that has to be maintained in the host countries, they never (at least in the analysed discussion forums) draw on the symbolic value of the Latin script as the dominating script of the Internet. This argument only seems to play a role, although rather implicitly, in the analysed Bulgarian groups where metalinguistic debates about script choices are almost absent. Ideological approaches that would treat Cyrillic as a symbol of the home culture never show up in these groups (except in some group names that do not trigger any discussion on this topic). The same applies to groups that address a Ukrainian audience. But even the Russian groups differ with regard to script policy and choice. While some groups explicitly prohibit the use of Latinized Russian, where this ban leads to its thorough absence in the discussion forums, other group administrators are not successful in their “struggle” against it, because some users refuse to obey attempts to prescribe Cyrillic script use for Russian messages. There are also Russian groups where the use of Latinized Russian does not provoke any discussion at all, in contrast to issues of language choice.

We can thus state that – despite the hostile movement against Latinized Russian in some groups – the script policy in social networks addressing a Slavic-German bilingual audience is still in a state of flux. Whether Latinized Russian will survive in these bilingual settings, despite its stigmatization and attempts to ‘ethnicize’ script choice, remains to be seen. In the light of ongoing language shift toward the majority language German, which especially affects writing and reading skills ← 76 | 77 → in the home language66, it seems plausible to suggest that rendering Russian with Latin characters will continue to function as a visual sign of the symbolic status of Russian as a minority language in the respective host countries. The persistent use of Latinized Russian in transnational communication will definitely support its position in the diaspora.

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1  Sebba, Mark: „Orthography as social action: Scripts, spelling, identity and power”. In: Jaffe, Alexandra et al. (eds.): Orthography as Social Action. de Gruyter: Berlin 2012, pp. 1–19.

2  See Androutsopoulos, Jannis: „Multilingualism, diaspora, and the Internet: codes and identities on German-based diaspora websites”. Journal of Sociolinguistics 10(4), 2006, pp. 520–547, here pp. 520 f., for references and an exhaustive review on the relevant literature.

3  Cf., among others, research overviews in Danet Brenda/Herring Susan (eds.): The Multilingual Internet. Language, Culture and Communication Online. University Press: Oxford 2007, Dorleijn Margreet/Nortier Jacomine: „Code-switching and the Internet”. In: Bullock Barbara E./Toribio Almeida J. (eds.): The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-Switching. University Press: Cambridge 2009, pp. 127–141, Leppänen Sirpa/ Peuronen Saija: „Multilingualism on the Internet”. In: Martin-Jones Marilyn/ Blackledge Adrian/ Creese Angela (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism. Routledge: London 2012, pp. 384–402, Androutsopoulos, Jannis: „Code-switching in computer-mediated communication”. In: Herring Susan/Stein Dieter/Virtanen Tuija (eds.): Pragmatics of Computer-mediated Communication. de Gruyter: Berlin 2013, pp. 667–694, Androutsopoulos, Jannis et al.: „Vernetzte Mehrsprachigkeit auf Facebook: Drei Hamburger Fallstudien”. In: Redder Angelika et al. (eds.): Mehrsprachige Kommunikation in der Stadt: Das Beispiel Hamburg. Waxmann: Münster et al. 2013, pp. 161–198, Androutsopoulos, Jannis: „Networked multilingualism: Some language practices on Facebook and their implications”. International Journal of Bilingualism 19(2), 2015, pp. 185–205.

4  Mitra, Ananda: „Diasporic online communities”. In: Christiansen Karen/Levinson David (eds.): Encyclopedia of Community. Volume 3. Sage: Thousand Oaks, California, 2003, pp. 1019–1020.

5  Sinclair John/Cunningham Stuart: „Go with the flow: Diasporas and the media”. Television & New Media 1, 2000, pp. 11–31.

6  Cf., e.g., Erfurt, Jürgen (ed.): „Multisprech“: Hybridität, Variation, Identität. OBST: Duisburg 2003, Hinnenkamp, Volker / Meng, Katharina (eds.): Sprachgrenzen überspringen: sprachliche Hybridität und polykulturelles Selbstverständnis. Narr: Tübingen 2005.

7  Gumperz, John J.: Discourse Strategies. University Press: Cambridge 1982.

8  Rampton, Ben: Crossing: Language and Ethnicity among Adolescents. Longman: London 1995.

9  Jørgensen, Normann J.: „Polylingual languaging around and among children and adolescents”. International Journal of Multilingualism 5(3), 2008, pp. 161–176.

10  Creese, Angela / Blackledge, Adrian: „Towards a sociolinguistics of superdiversity”. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft 13, 2010, pp. 549–572.

11  Otsuji, Emi / Pennycook, Alastair: „Metrolingualism: fixity, fluidity and language in flux”. International Journal of Multilingualism 7(3), 2010, pp. 240–254.

12  Otsuji / Pennycook 2010, p. 241.

13  Wei, Li: „Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain”. Journal of Pragmatics 43, 2011, pp. 1222–1235.

14  Cf. Jørgensen 2008.

15  Sebba, Mark: Spelling and Society: The Culture and Politics of Orthography around the World. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge/New York 2007.

16  For a detailed account on the historical development and use of scripts in the Slavic-speaking area see Cubberley, Paul: „Alphabets and transliteration”. In: Comrie Bernard/Stone Gerald (eds.): The Slavonic Languages. Routledge: London 1993, pp. 20–59.

17  Cubberley 1993, p. 20.

18  Of course, things are more complicated in reality than this binary division suggests at first glance. To mention just one example of a deviation from the dichotomy described above: Belarusian and Ukrainian were for some part of their history also written by using the Latin alphabet, especially in the areas that were under Polish rule up to World War II (cf., e.g., Mečkovskaja, Nina Borisovna: Belorusskij jazyk: Sociolingvističeskie očerki. Otto Sagner: München 2003, pp. 47–62).

19  It was specifically created by Constantine (better known by his monk name Cyril) during a mission from Byzantium to the Moravian Slavs with his brother Methodius in the early 860s.

20  Cubberley 1993, p. 31.

21  The so-called Novi Sad Agreement (“Novosadski dogovor”) from 1950 explicitly stated in one of its “conclusions” that the Latin and Cyrillic scripts should have equal status in Yugoslavia, and that Serbs and Croats are expected to learn both alphabets in school.

22  The term digraphia refers to situations where two or more scripts are simultaneously used to write one and the same language (cf. Dale, Ian: „Digraphia”. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 26, 1980, pp. 5–13, Grivelet, Stéphane: „Introduction to: Digraphia: Writing Systems and Societies”. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 150, 2001, pp. 1–10).

23  Alexander, Ronelle: Bosnian – Croatian – Serbian: A Grammar with Sociolinguistic Commentary. University of Wisconsin Press: Wisconsin 2006, p. 419.

24  Kronsteiner, Otto: Latinica und Kirilica? Gedanken zu einer entscheidenden kulturellen Herausforderung Bulgariens. Institut für Slawistik: Salzburg 2000.

25  Sebba 2012, p. 12, cf. also Bennett, Brian P.: „Orthography and Orthodoxy in post-Soviet Russia”. In: Jaffe, Alexandra et al. (eds.): Orthography as Social Action. de Gruyter: Berlin 2012, pp. 43–64.

26  Although this does not refer to Slavic languages, we could also mention here the postcolonial discussions about abandoning the Cyrillic script for rendering the national languages in a number of Central Asian successor states of the former Soviet Union, e.g. Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan or Tatarstan (see Sebba 2012, p. 3 for references). The case of Tatarstan is examined in detail by Wertheim, Suzanne: „Reclamation, revalorization, and re-Tatarization via changing Tatar orthographies”. In: Jaffe, Alexandra et al. (eds.): Orthography as Social Action. de Gruyter: Berlin 2012, pp. 65–101.

27  Woolard, Kathryn / Schieffelin, Bambi: „Language ideology”. Annual Review of Anthropology 23, 1994, pp. 55–82, cited in Wertheim 2012, p. 65.

28  Sebba 2012, p. 4.

29  Androutsopoulos, Jannis: „‘Greeklish’: Transliteration practice and discourse in a setting of computer-mediated digraphia”. In: Georgakopoulou Alexandra/Silk Michael (eds.): Standard Languages and Language Standards: Greek, Past and Present. Ashgate: Farnham 2009, pp. 221–249.

30  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 224.

31  The application of Latin characters to render these languages often lacks stability among the individual users. The informal ways of Latinization in Internet discourse have been described for several non-Latin-alphabet languages, including Greek (Koutsogiannis, Dimitris / Mitsikopoulou, Bessie: „Greeklish and Greekness: trends and discourses of ‘glocalness’”. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 9(1), 2003, Androutsopoulos 2009), Arabic (Palfreyman, David / al Khalil, Muhamed: „‘A Funky Language for Teenzz to Use’: Representing Gulf Arabic in Instant Messaging”. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 9(1), 2003), Russian (Birzer, Sandra: Transliteracija russkich grafem v latinicu v ėlektronnoj perepiske na russkom jazyke. Izdatel’stvo Sankt-Peterburgskogo Universiteta: Sankt-Peterburg 2004), and Bulgarian (Kirova, Ljudmila: „Bilingvizăm i digrafija v rečta na bălgarskite gejmări”. LiterNet 2001(8), 2002, Staljanova-Michajlova, Nadežda / Genev-Puchaleva, Ilijana: „Kirilica i/ili ‘metodica’ v bălgarskoto elektronno obštuvane”. Południowosłowiańskie zeszyty naukowe: Język, Literatura, Kultura 3, 2006, pp. 211–218, Kempgen, Sebastian: „Handschrift, Web 2.0 und Paläographie”. In: Symanzik, Bernhard (ed.): Miscellanea Slavica Monasteriensia: Gedenkschrift für Gerhard Birkfellner. LIT: Berlin, Münster 2013, pp. 327–333).

32  One of the most important tools is http://translit.net/.

33  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 225.

34  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 227 who also reports that Greeklish is the default choice for second-generation Greeks in Germany when engaging in electronic communication (ibid.).

35  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 222 uses the term „computer-mediated digraphia“ to capture the parallel use of Greek and Latin scripts in the same domains of electronic communication in Greek.

36  See Androutsopoulos 2009, pp. 225 f. for an extensive treatment of the public debates surrounding “Greeklish” in the late 1990s. The same equation of Latinization with a supposed national threat can be seen on the Russian Internet, when entering search terms such as “Latinization of Russian” (latinizacija russkogo jazyka). This “phobia” is reinforced by the observations of many Russians about the spread of Latin script into off-line public discourse: mainly single words written in Latin characters on public billboards, advertisements and in newspaper articles, but also graphic hybrids like Автоzona ‘Auto Zone’. This tendency is often linked to an increased amount of loanwords and borrowings from English entering Russian after the Perestroika (cf. Grigor’eva, Tat’jana Michajlovna: Tri veka russkoj orfografii (XVIII-XX vv.). Izdatel’stvo Ėlpis: Moskva 2004, pp. 238–240).

37  This might involve time-consuming training of the children to read and write the home language, or attending classes of heritage language schools (“Sunday/Saturday schools”, when locally available).

38  Website: www.studivz.net.

39  All figures provided in this section were taken from http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/StudiVZ (last accessed August, 14, 2014). Between 2006 and 2009 similar services were available in France (StudiQG), Italy (StudiLN), Spain (EstudiLN) and Poland (StudentIX), but these international offshoots were given up in January 2009. Since then, the focus has been on students in German-speaking countries.

40  Data collection took place between April and September 2012 during a fellowship at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) of the University of Freiburg. I am very grateful to Peter Auer and Juliane Besters-Dilger for inviting me to FRIAS and granting me the possibility to work on this project.

41  Cf. Brehmer, Bernhard: „Sprachwahl und Sprachwechsel in der slavisch-deutschen bilingualen Internet-Kommunikation”. In: Kempgen, Sebastian et al. (eds.): Deutsche Beiträge zum 15. Internationalen Slavistenkongress Minsk 2013. Otto Sagner: München, Berlin, New York 2013, pp. 79–88.

42  It goes without saying that there is no way to check whether this kind of personal information is true or not, bearing in mind that fake identities are often said to be typical for anonymous Internet discourse where users in general resort to nicknames for self-presentation. However, since these groups are meant to address people from a certain background (and Slavic cultures and languages are generally not considered very prestigious by members of the German-speaking host communities), there is, to my mind, no reason to substantially question the authenticity of the personal information given by the users themselves.

43  The criteria that were applied for selecting the groups and the posts are explained in Brehmer, Bernhard: „Script-Switching und Digraphie im Netz: Schriftpräferenzen und Schriftkontakt in der bilingualen deutsch-slavischen Internet-Kommunikation”. In: Tomelleri Vittorio/Kempgen Sebastian (eds.): Slavic Alphabets in Contact. Bamberg University Press: Bamberg 2015, pp. 59–94 and Brehmer 2013 in detail. Due to a lower number of groups that target a Bulgarian-speaking audience, the Bulgarian subcorpus turned out to be slightly smaller than the Russian and Ukrainian subcorpora.

44  Cf. Brehmer 2015.

45  Cf. Brehmer 2015.

46  See Brehmer 2015 for details.

47  All names are given in their original orthographic form. For readers who are not familiar with the languages under focus, the language is indicated in brackets after the English translation of the name.

48  The only instances of emblematic usage of the Cyrillic script can be found in the design of screen or user names. Here, some users tend to display an affiliation to Bulgarian culture and Bulgarian identity by introducing (parts of) their names in Cyrillic, e.g. the maiden name: Vania Neumann geb. Джуркова ‘Vania Neumann, nee Džurkova’ (see Brehmer 2013).

49  However, the rather small differences regarding frequency of Cyrillic script use between the Bulgarian (69.7 % of all posts in Cyrillic) and Russian groups (63 %) are not sufficient to explain the differences in reacting to Latin-alphabet posts, as was rightly stated by one of the reviewers of this paper.

50  Immigration from the successor states of the former Soviet Union to Germany (especially from Russia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine) reached its peak shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, cf. Brehmer, Bernhard: „Sprechen Sie Qwelja? Formen und Folgen russisch-deutscher Zweisprachigkeit in Deutschland”. In: Anstatt, Tanja (ed.): Mehrsprachigkeit bei Kindern und Erwachsenen. Erwerb, Formen, Förderung. Attempto: Tübingen 2007, pp. 163–185.

51  See Brehmer 2013.

52  Cf. the distinction between „simple management” of linguistic issues, which manifests itself in self- or other-corrections of forms in face-to-face communication, and “organized management”, which is implemented by social organizations from above, in Language Management Theory (Jernudd, B.H. / Neustupný, J.V.: „Language planning: for whom?” In: Laforge, L. (ed.): Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Language Planning. Les Presses de L’Université Laval: Québec, pp. 69–84). Instances of simple management will be dealt with in the following section.

53  For reasons of space, all quotes here and in the following section will be presented in English translations only. All translations are mine. The last names of the users are reduced to their initials to ensure anonymity.

54  See Brehmer 2015.

55  Mitra, Ananda: „Virtual commonality: Looking for India on the Internet”. In: Jones, Steven G. (ed.): Virtual Culture. Sage: London 1998, pp. 55–79, cited by Androutsopoulos 2006, p. 536.

56  ‘Repatriates’ (Russian pereselency, German (Spät-)Aussiedler) here refers to the group of immigrants from countries of the former Soviet Union who could claim German descent, owing to the fact that their ancestors immigrated from the German lands to Russia in the 18th century or later, and were therefore granted German citizenship right after immigration in the late 1980s and 1990s. Their dominant home language in Germany, at least among the generations that grew up in Soviet times, continued to be Russian. Thus, they form a great part of the heterogeneous Russian-speaking diaspora in contemporary Germany (see Brehmer 2007 for details).

57  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 222.

58  Sebba, Mark: „Phonology meets ideology: the meaning of orthographic practices in British Creole”. Language Problems and Language Planning 22, 1998, pp. 19–47.

59  A typical example for the argument that Latinization impedes readability and therefore effective communication is the message of Lu H., who first quotes from a preceding post: ‘Da priwelegija kone4no ogromnaja 200 000 mjortwich w god bes 4e4ni, otkuda ti eto s kopiriwal?^^ A mogu4ij russkij AK -74 ja i bes armii mogu w rukah derschat (Schützenverein), i escho weschi po weseleje!!‘ and then complains about its poor comprehensibility: “Can anyone read this accumulation of letters? Next time visit www.translit.ru please. You type there, copy it, paste it here. Or write in German. My God, it’s impossible to read!”

60  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 242.

61  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 222.

62  Androutsopoulos 2009, p. 244.

63  All the other arguments for and against the use of the Latin script that are listed by Androutsopoulos 2009, pp. 242–245 for the Greeklish case show up in the metalinguistic debates on Latinized Russian as well.

64  Sebba 2012, p. 9.

65  Sebba 2012, p. 6.

66  Cf. Achterberg, Jörn: Zur Vitalität slavischer Idiome in Deutschland. Eine empirische Studie zum Sprachverhalten slavophoner Immigranten. Otto Sagner: München 2005, p. 146.