25.4208, Review: Sociolinguistics: Vihman, Praakli (2013)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-25-4208. Fri Oct 24 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.4208, Review: Sociolinguistics: Vihman, Praakli (2013)

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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:50:39
From: Elizabeth Adeolu [elizaadeolu at yahoo.com]
Subject: Negotiating Linguistic Identity

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-5071.html

EDITOR: Virve-Anneli  Vihman
EDITOR: Kristiina  Praakli
TITLE: Negotiating Linguistic Identity
SUBTITLE: Language and Belonging in Europe
SERIES TITLE: Nationalisms across the Globe
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Elizabeth Olushola Adeolu, University of Edinburgh

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


'Negotiating Linguistic Identity: Language and Belonging in Europe' is a
collection of papers mostly presented at a conference on language and identity
held at the University of Tartu in Estonia in 2011 in collaboration with the
Coimbra Group, which is made up of established, European research-focused
universities. The importance of the Coimbra Group with respect to the issue of
negotiating linguistic identity is revealed  in a discussion about their
seemingly contradictory aims of shaping and promoting national identity while
at the same time promulgating international networking and relevance.

The volume is divided into three sections namely 'Multilingualism',
'Self-Representation and Belonging', and 'Language and Policy'. The first and
second sections consist of four articles each, while the last is made up of
three articles.

Preceding the sections is an introduction by Virve-Anneli Vihman and Juegen
Barkhoff titled 'Introduction: The Shaping of Linguistic Identity in Europe'.
Here, Vihman and Barkhoff state the aims of the Coimbra Group and note the
salient role of member universities as advocates of these aims. They also give
a brief history of language and identity, as well as that of linguistic
diversity and multilingualism in Europe, highlighting such issues as the
dichotomy between language policies promoting multilingualism, which evoke
images of equal language representation, and the reality of hegemony of
majority languages. 

The first section, 'Multilingualism', opens with an article by Johanna Laakso
titled 'Who Needs Karelian, Kven or Austrian Hungarian - and Why?' Here,
Laakso looks at the issue of multilingualism from the point of view of
researches carried out by the European language Diversity for All (ELDIA)
research project. She outlines the challenges faced by the project, including
negativity attached to such terms as minority languages, variability in
fluency and use of target varieties, international mobility, and issues of
language planning and teaching. She advises that the best way to research
multilingualism would be to combine the views of language as a resource, which
speaks to the instrumental function of language, and language as a burden,
which is mostly associated with heritage languages, or so called minority

The second article, 'Estonian-Russian Code-Copying in Russian-Language Blogs:
Language Change and a New Kind of Linguistic Awareness' is written by Anna
Verschik.  In this article, Verschik examined how Computer Mediated
Communication (CMC), such as emails, blogs, and text messages that take place
using two or more electronic devices, could benefit the field of contact
linguistics and multilingualism. She analysed the data from five Russian
Language blogs written by ethnic Russians living in Estonia within the
code-copying framework developed by Johanson (1993, 2002) and found that not
only were each of them consciously choosing to use Estonian expressions in
their blogs, a phenomenon that could be explained as contact-induced, but also
code-copying across the board followed the same pattern. As a result, she also
highlights the importance of focus on individuals in multilingualism studies. 

The third article in this section, written by Martin Ehala and titled
'Russian-Speakers in the Baltic Countries', follows the history of the
relationship between language and identity of the ethnic Russian-speakers
living in the Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - from the
Soviet times till the present day.  Ehala concludes by saying that the more
the use of the state language (the majority language used in the country of
residence), the more dynamic and flexible identity is. 

The final article in the section is 'Interaction among European Languages and
German Vocabulary', written by Bettina Bock and Rosemarie Lühr. Using German
as a case study, the chapter focuses on loan processes in European languages 
and what this means for the idea of a common European identity.  Bock and Lühr
consider the use of Germanisms, loan words that have been borrowed from the
German language and used in a similar sense by at least three European
languages, and Europeanisms, which represent the converse (Bergmann 1995),
positing that this sharing of words can be exploited in forming a common
European identity.

'Self-Representation and Belonging', the second section in this volume, starts
with an article by John E. Joseph. The article, 'Indexing and Interpreting
Language, Identities and Face', centers on the complicated nature of indexing
identities and face - a role which language plays. By means of a sample
conversation analysis, Joseph underlines this difficulty of distinguishing in
linguistic analysis between face (the contact-based image an individual
projects) and identity (a more enduring sense of belonging that may encompass
what an individual or group projects and the interpretation this is given by
others). He posits that both identity and face are symbiotic concepts which
can also be seen as different outlooks on the same reality. 

The second article, 'Languages and Identities in Catalonia' by Emili
Boix-Fuster, tackles the connection between language and identity in Catalonia
since the recovery of democracy in 1975.  He maintains that the Catalan
language and identity still enjoy prestige and the language is used in major
domains in Catalonia, in spite of the changing linguistic landscape with the
major influx of immigrants whose first language is usually Spanish, the
growing bilingualism with Spanish, and the elitism of the political leaders.
Boix-Fuster cautions though that the use of Spanish should be managed so that
Catalan does not get assimilated. 

The third article, 'Gaelic and Sorbian as Multiple Boundary Markers:
Implications of Minority Language Activism in Scotland and Lusatia' by
Konstanze McLeod, addresses the issue of the Gaelic language and
Gaelic-related identities in Scotland; and the Sorbian language and
Sorbian-related identities in Eastern Germany.  Both languages (and
identities) erstwhile restricted to the heartland regions where they originate
and are predominantly spoken are now of more interest to and spoken, albeit
with varying degrees of proficiency, by 'outsiders'. This spike in interest in
the Gaelic and Sorbian languages and identities is thought to have been
prompted by  the respective parent countries’ explicit promotional schemes.
McLeod concludes that this diversity in speakers and people identifying with
the language and culture is overridden by the more pressing matter of activism
for these languages in the present age. 

The last article in this section, 'The Role of Language in Estonian Identity'
by Aune Valk, gives a theoretical review using data from mostly quantitative
studies to examine the relationship between language and identity among ethnic
Russians living in Estonia, Estonians living in Estonia, and Estonians living
abroad (the last group are further subdivided into Old DiEst, those who
escaped Estonia in and around 1944 following the German occupation and their
descendants; and New DiEst, those who have left Estonia since 1991).  From the
review of the related studies, Valk finds that while proficiency in Estonian
was the major indicator of Estonian identity for the Estonians abroad,
probably because of the desire to hold on to their heritage language and
identity; unlike their counterparts in diaspora, Estonians living in Estonia
(and ethnic Russians living in Estonia who speak the language and identify
with the Estonian community) did not see language proficiency as a major
marker of Estonian identity, but cited the desire to integrate into the
Estonian community.

The third section, Language and Policy, opens with Patrick Sériot's 'Language
and Nation: Two Models'. In this article, Sériot delves into a historical
definition of the relationship between language and nation by two defining
approaches. The first approach, the German romantic approach, is defined as
'naturalistic' (p. 259) and holds the view that a nation is defined by the
language it speaks, and thus language is static and absolute. The second
approach, the French Jacobin, which Sériot describes as 'contractualist' (p.
259), favours the view that language does not define a nation, and language is
dynamic. Sériot sides with the latter approach with a discussion of the issues
that the approaches generate in dealing with the non-isomorphic concepts of
nation and language.

The second article by Tomasz Kamusella, titled 'Scripts and Politics in Modern
Central Europe', explores the issue of multiscripturalism in Central Europe.
Multiscripturalism itself refers to “the use of two or more scripts when
writing in a polity or territory” p. 273. Kamusella charts the history of
scripting in Europe to the present day when the majority of Europe is
monoscriptural and multiscripturalism is the preserve of Central Europe where
Latin, Cyrillic and Greek are used. He ends by stressing the importance of
multiscripturalism in providing access to more information and being a tool
that can be employed in politics in Europe, for better or worse.

The last article in this section is by John Walsh. The article, 'Pushing an
Open Door? Aspects of Language Policy at an Irish University', dwells on the
Irish language policy at the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway,
within the framework of the Official Language Act (OLA). Walsh examines the
implementation of the NUI's language policy which supports the OLA's
obligations, one of which Walsh focused his research on. This obligation was
the bilingual presentation of signage and stationery in a particular manner.
He looked at the implementation of this obligation at the NUI and also
students' attitudes to that and other aspects of NUI language policy. His
findings point to the importance of universities’ support of the OLA through
their language policy, especially as the results he found were favourable in
every regard. 


This volume is useful for anyone interested in historical linguistics,
multilingualism, language and identity, and language policy and planning. In
spite of the fact that the volume is Europe-focused, the issues it tackles are

The volume is also valuable in the sense of incorporating diverse approaches
to the examination of the issues discussed. Not only were there empirical and
theoretical approaches, but it was also refreshing to see multilingualism and
identity discussed from the non-traditional point of view of Computer Mediated
Communication, as in Verschik's 'Estonian-Russian Code-Copying in Russian
Language Blogs: Language Change and a New Kind of Linguistic Awareness'.

As a whole, the articles were cohesive, as they all touched on the central
theme of negotiating linguistic identity in Europe.  But, the sections
'Multilingualism' and 'Self-Representation and Belonging' had less coherence
than the section on 'Language and Policy'. The majority of articles in the
former sections could easily fit either section; this defeats the purpose of
the division into sections in the first place. Indeed, it seemed that the
first two sections were named after the major issue in the first articles of
each of the sections. 

Another issue that was disappointing but understandable (given  publishing 
deadlines and the undesirability of rushing research analysis) was the issue
of incomplete research results presented  in two of the articles – Laakso's
'Who Needs Karelian, Kven or Austrian Hungarian – and Why?' (p. 52); and
Ehala's 'Russian-Speakers in the Baltic Countries' (p. 94).  It would have
been interesting and probably more meaningful to have the full results in the
volume, but such an omission  is not unusual.

Potential for future research was indicated by  some of the articles in the
volume. One of such articles is Verschik's 'Estonian-Russian Code-Copying in
Russian Language Blogs: Language Change and a New Kind of Linguistic
Awareness' which indicates the need for more research into CMC. Likewise,
Kamusella's theoretical take on the issue of multiscripturalism and its effect
on politics in 'Scripts and Politics in Modern Central Europe' seems to be a
good foundation for further empirical studies.

Overall, the volume  is a good reference book that makes for an interesting
and multi-dimensional study on familiar linguistic topics.


Bergman, Rolf. 1995. 'Europsmus' and 'Internationalismus'. Zur Lexikologischen
Terminologie ['Europeanism' and 'internationalism'. On Lexicological
Terminology]. Sprachwissenschaft 20. 239-277.

Johanson, Lars. 1993. Code-Copying in Immigrant Turkish. In Guus Extra and
Ludo Verhoeven (eds). Immigrant Languages in Europe. 197 -- 221.
Clevedon/Philadelphia/Adelaide: Multilingual Matters.  

Johanson, Lars. 2002. Structural Factors in Turkic Language Contacts. London:


Elizabeth Olushola Adeolu is a Ph.D. candidate of Linguistics and English
Language at the University of Edinburgh,  U.K. Her research interests include
such sociolinguistic and socio-phonetic areas as Dialect features, World
Englishes, Identity, Language Endangerment, language Attitudes and
Perceptions, Pidgins and Creoles. Her current research work is on attitudes
and perceptions of exonormative varieties by ESL speakers.

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