An Official Status for Minority Languages?

A Study of State Languages in Russia's Finno-Ugric Republics

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

Abstract

This study focuses on the phenomenon of the granting of official status for minority languages. The concepts of official language and minority language do not seem to be completely compatible and their linking requires further specification. In theory, an official language has both symbolic and practical communicative functions. An official language that is also a minority language functions primarily as a national symbol and potentially may also possess the practical function as a language of the public authority. In the latter case, minority language is more often used as the language of communication between authorities and citizens rather than being the working language. Why are some minority languages nominated as official languages? The aim of this research is to explore the formation of the official status and its configurations for the state languages in the Finno-Ugric Republics of the Russian Federation in order to understand the reasons for their designation and to shed light on the specifics of the official status in the case of minority languages. This dissertation is an interdisciplinary study and its toolkit is not limited to theories of language policy but includes the wider perspectives of studies in ethnicity and nationalism. Common perspectives for both interdisciplinary fields are symbolist, revivalist, instrumentalist and institutionalist approaches. These theoretical approaches are employed to interpret the results of an empirical study. The case of Russia is particularly interesting as an empirical study because, alongside China and India, it possesses the world's greatest number of official languages. The case studies concerning Russia’s Republics demonstrated that one should distinguish at least three reasons for the designation of their state languages that were parts of parallel processes with different goals, meanings and consequences. The reasons for the officialization reveal different aspects of the official status and correspond to the three types of recognition: symbolic, political and legal. In the case of minority languages their official status functions foremost, and often exclusively, as a symbol of identity. Unless the minority language is the sole official language of the region, official status proves to offer only a limited language revival tool. However, this status also has an important function as a social institution that structures social relations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVammalan Kirjapaino Oy
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-5667-53-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-9717-1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law
  • official status
  • state languages
  • minority languages
  • language rights
  • language legislation
  • 517 Political science
  • language policy
  • nationalities policy
  • education policy
  • Finno-Ugric republics
  • Russian Federation

Cite this

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title = "An Official Status for Minority Languages?: A Study of State Languages in Russia's Finno-Ugric Republics",
abstract = "This study focuses on the phenomenon of the granting of official status for minority languages. The concepts of official language and minority language do not seem to be completely compatible and their linking requires further specification. In theory, an official language has both symbolic and practical communicative functions. An official language that is also a minority language functions primarily as a national symbol and potentially may also possess the practical function as a language of the public authority. In the latter case, minority language is more often used as the language of communication between authorities and citizens rather than being the working language. Why are some minority languages nominated as official languages? The aim of this research is to explore the formation of the official status and its configurations for the state languages in the Finno-Ugric Republics of the Russian Federation in order to understand the reasons for their designation and to shed light on the specifics of the official status in the case of minority languages. This dissertation is an interdisciplinary study and its toolkit is not limited to theories of language policy but includes the wider perspectives of studies in ethnicity and nationalism. Common perspectives for both interdisciplinary fields are symbolist, revivalist, instrumentalist and institutionalist approaches. These theoretical approaches are employed to interpret the results of an empirical study. The case of Russia is particularly interesting as an empirical study because, alongside China and India, it possesses the world's greatest number of official languages. The case studies concerning Russia’s Republics demonstrated that one should distinguish at least three reasons for the designation of their state languages that were parts of parallel processes with different goals, meanings and consequences. The reasons for the officialization reveal different aspects of the official status and correspond to the three types of recognition: symbolic, political and legal. In the case of minority languages their official status functions foremost, and often exclusively, as a symbol of identity. Unless the minority language is the sole official language of the region, official status proves to offer only a limited language revival tool. However, this status also has an important function as a social institution that structures social relations.",
keywords = "513 Law, official status, state languages, minority languages, language rights, language legislation, 517 Political science, language policy, nationalities policy, education policy, Finno-Ugric republics, Russian Federation",
author = "Konsta Zamyatin",
year = "2014",
language = "English",
isbn = "978-952-5667-53-0",
series = "Uralica Helsingiensia",
publisher = "Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura",
address = "Finland",

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An Official Status for Minority Languages? A Study of State Languages in Russia's Finno-Ugric Republics. / Zamyatin, Konsta.

Vammalan Kirjapaino Oy : Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2014. 145 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

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KW - language rights

KW - language legislation

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KW - nationalities policy

KW - education policy

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CY - Vammalan Kirjapaino Oy

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Zamyatin K. An Official Status for Minority Languages? A Study of State Languages in Russia's Finno-Ugric Republics. Vammalan Kirjapaino Oy: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2014. 145 p. (Uralica Helsingiensia).