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Growing through the pavement: language endangerment and traces of cultural and linguistic resistance in Siberia Olga Kazakevich

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Presentation on theme: "Growing through the pavement: language endangerment and traces of cultural and linguistic resistance in Siberia Olga Kazakevich"— Presentation transcript:

1 Growing through the pavement: language endangerment and traces of cultural and linguistic resistance in Siberia Olga Kazakevich, Landau, 03.04.2014 36 th LAUD Symposium, Landau, 03.04.2014

2 The paper presents some results and shares some experiences of a series of sociolinguistic surveys done in the last two decades (1993-2013) as a part of several projects on language documentation and description realized (or being realized) at the Laboratory for Computational Lexicography, Research Computing Centre, Lomonosov Moscow State University and supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Researches, Russian Foundation for the Humanities and Yamalo-Nenets Centre for Arctic Researches.

3 Regions of our fieldwork - Krasnoselkup and Pur districts, Yamalo- Nenets autonomous area, - Evenki, Taimyr, Turukhansk and Yeniseisk districts, Krasnoyarsk territory, - Upper-Ket and Kargasok districts, Tomsk region

4 Documented idioms: Local dialects of Selkup (Uralic family) PC 3649 / Speakers PC 1023, Sv 600 Ket (Yeniseic family) PC 1219 / Speakers PC 213 / Sv 70 Evenki (Altaic family – Tungusic) PC 37843 / Speakers PC 4200 Western Evenkis 4372 / Sv 800 Western Evenkis 4372 / Sv 800

5 Documentation of local dialects of Selkup, Ket and Western Evenki includs sociolinguistic survey of the communities, in which we work. Up to now we surveyed 45 settlements with Selkup, Ket, Evenki, Enets, Nenets, Dolgan local communities situated in Western and Central Siberia



8 Linguistic situation in the surveyed local communities

9 In all the settlements, including those where the autochthonous population represent the overwhelming majority and where people still keep traditional way of life, the main means of communication both at home and in the community life is Russian.

10 Children able to speak their ethnic language are scares, Children able to speak their ethnic language are scares, they can still be found only in four Selkup and one Evenki villages.




14 each surveyed settlement gives a new fragment and quite often a new dimension of the linguistic situation in the area. The situation of language shift is today quite common for autochthonous communities of Siberia. Meanwhile, each surveyed settlement gives a new fragment and quite often a new dimension of the linguistic situation in the area.

15 It cannot be said that the problem of ethnic language attrition does not worry the communities. The attitude of ethnic community members towards the ethnic language is mostly positive, the majority of parents say they want their children to speak their ancestral language, but even those parents who are able to speak it themselves choose to speak Russian with their children.

16 Though the ancestral language is regarded as desirable for children by the majority of parents, it is Russian that is considered absolutely obligatory Actually, people do not believe that anything can be done to stop the shrinking of the use of their ancestral languages. Many of them just state their language is dying.

17 The prejudice that to learn the language of the majority, which gives access to education, professional career and prosperity, is only possible abandoning the ancestral language is still wide-spread both inside and outside ethnic minority groups, it is wide-spread in different social strata including educational authorities.

18 So, the first thing to be done to support autochthonous languages is to overcome the prejudice. Advertising the advantages of multilingualism could be most helpful in the Siberian context.

19 Education In 37 of the 45 surveyed settlements there is a school, at least a primary school, and in 24 of them pupils have (or recently had) mother tongue classes. Unfortunately, these classes appeared to be practically ineffective.

20 The fact that a certain minority language is taught at school does not automatically contribute to its status in the community and to its preservation. The results of teaching depend on - attitude of the community and regional educational authorities towards minority language teaching, - training, skills and personality of the teacher, - quality of teaching materials, - language variety chosen to be taught

21 What language variety should be taught? If teaching endangered languages at school is taken seriously as an instrument of language preservation it is the language variety of each particular community that the children of that community should be taught

22 Attitudes towards multilingualism in local communities Multilingualism is respected, but for many community members it is mostly regarded as a capacity of the past heroes: “My father/grandfather/grandmother spoke Selkup, Evenki, Ket and Nenets. They were great people long ago!”.

23 Meanwhile, in 2012 in the tiny village of Ratta at the Taz River our language consultant Yuriy Aleksandrovich Irikov gave a speech, which was nothing but a Eulogy to Multilingualism.


25 1. mannįktεnyrp-aŋ 1SGsothink-1SG.SBJ I think as follows: nakutyśittyə̄ty-sa mulymp-a thiswhotwoword-INSTRspeak-3SG.SBJ The one who speaks two languages pūtsomaŋ mulε̄i-tεnt-a thenwell speak-FUT-3SG.SBJ will speak well, nȳnymənyjə̄ty-m naεj somaŋünDε̄i-nty-ŋyt thenforeignword-ACC this also wellhear-FUT-3SG.OBJ Then he will also understand a foreign language well.

26 2. kuty śittyә̄ty-sämulympy-lä whotwoword-INSTRspeak-CVB Who speaks two languages, qō-ty čaŋakε̄-j-a ear-POSS.3SGpurebe-3SG.SBJ His ears are pure. 3. mēnįkkətk-̄myn 1PLsosay-3PL We say so: qō-tyčaŋakε̄-j-a ear-POSS.3SGpurebe-PRS-3SG.SBJ His ears are pure.

27 znachitsomak somak tanym-nεnt-a It.means well well learn-FUT-3SG.SBJ It means he will learn well, well, cəktanym-nεnt-a quicklylearn-FUT-3SG.SBJ He will learn quickly. 4. čəŋ aj čəŋ aj tεny-ty kojym̄tk-a quickly and quickly and mind-POSS-3SG turn-3SG.SBJ And his mind turns quickly ürō-myn-ty kojym̄tk-a näjεnty buisiness-PROL-POSS.3SG turn-3SG.SBJ properly turns.

28 5. nätak tymty ūčy-nt-y girl here work-EVID-3SG.SBJ A girl works here toqtyr-qa poľńitsā-χyn nurse-TRANSL hospital-LOC as a nurse at the hospital. təm muntyŋ ə̄ty-nty-sä somaŋ muly-nt-a she all word-POSS.3SG-INST well speak- EVID-3SG She can speak well all the languages…

29 Actual ethnic language functions in most of the surveyed communities 1. Keeping secrets: ethnic language is valued by its speakers as a means of secret communication.



32 Actual ethnic language functions 2. Preserving people’s history: “Let my word go farther to my great grandchildren, may it remain after I am gone to the ancestors”


34 Unexpectedly preserved shamanistic tradition




38 Autochthonous language and culture in school curriculum (a project of a district administration)

39 Local specific features should be taken into account when we try to understand the processes going on, to evaluate the perspectives of language maintenance and to develop appropriate approaches to effective language supporting policies.

40 A typology of levels of language endangerment should be developed basing on local language communities

41 Thank you!

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