[Lgpolicy-list] [lg policy] Fwd: Ukraine Holds Politically Charged 'Dictation' Contest

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Nov 7 21:06:48 UTC 2014

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Fierman, William <wfierman at indiana.edu>
Date: Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM
Subject: Ukraine Holds Politically Charged 'Dictation' Contest
To: Harold Schiffman <haroldfs at gmail.com>

 *Ukraine Holds Politically Charged 'Dictation' Contest *


[image: "If 700 people were able to write it flawlessly, this would not be
a competition," says respected Ukrainian linguist Oleksandr Avramenko.]

"If 700 people were able to write it flawlessly, this would not be a
competition," says respected Ukrainian linguist Oleksandr Avramenko.

November 07, 2014

KYIV -- Ukraine's annual dictation contest has always carried political

The competition, officially titled Ukrainian Dictation of National
Unity, was launched in 2000 to promote the Ukrainian language in a country
where almost one-third of citizens consider Russian their mother tongue.

With Kyiv struggling to stamp out a separatist insurgency in the country's
predominantly Russian-speaking east, this year's November 7 dictation was
an opportunity for organizers and participants to show their support for
Ukrainian territorial integrity.

The National Radio Company, which organizes the contest, said the cash
prizes usually awarded to winners would be redirected to Ukrainian soldiers
battling the separatists.

"For the first time in 14 years, people are writing the dictation for the
idea rather than for the prize," it said in a statement.

The contest, held annually on the eve of Ukrainian Writing and Language
Day, is popular in the country. Last year, more than 13,000 participants
sent in their copies.

This year's dictation was broadcast live on radio as part of a two-hour
show featuring politicians and cultural luminaries.

The presenter, respected linguist Oleksandr Avramenko, read a 180-word text
packed with grammatical traps and complex spellings.

"The dictation is difficult," Avramenko, the author of schoolbooks on
Ukrainian language and literature, told RFE/RL. "If 700 people were able to
write it flawlessly, this would not be a competition."

Svitlana Dolesko, the head of the Kyiv-based Center of Ukrainian Culture
and Art, was one of the guests invited to take the dictation at the
National Radio Company.

She made seven mistakes, six of them tied to punctuation.

"I will come here every year from now on," she said, "until I can proudly
say that I didn't make a single mistake."

Language is a highly sensitive issue in Ukraine.

One of the first bills adopted by Ukraine's new Western-leaning parliament
proposed stripping Russian of its status as an official language in Ukraine.

Then-acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, facing a public outcry from
Russian speakers but also from many Ukrainian speakers, chose not to sign
the bill into law.

Moscow, however, has cited the move as part of what it denounces as the
repression of Russian speakers in Ukraine -- a notion it has invoked to
justify its support of separatists in the country's east.

A large proportion of the residents of eastern Ukraine have only
superficial knowledge of Ukrainian and speak either Russian or a mix of
Russian and Ukrainian known as "surzhyk."


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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