Monolingual and bilingual practices: reversing power relations during a festivity in Pondala

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Abstract

Abstract: This paper aims to demonstrate how people can shift prevailing power relations when engaging in distinct bilingual practices, especially in convivial settings in a remote, yet familiar to the speakers, rural environment. My paper is based on extensive fieldwork conducted among Veps, a Finno-Ugric population, traditionally living in rural settlements in north-western Russia. Most elderly Vepsian villagers are bilingual and can speak Vepsian, their heritage language, as well as Russian. In their daily bilingual practices, they tend to conform to the
overarching language ecology and to employ Vepsian and/or Russian, depending on the dominant forces (including language ideologies) present at the time of speech. This often means speaking Russian in the presence of Russian-only speakers and in more institutional settings. Such practices tend to match ideologies and language behaviours which already emerged during the Tsarist era and Soviet times. However, by introducing a vignette situated in Pondala, a Vepsian village in Vologda Oblast, I show how Veps can reverse uneven relations of power once the ordinary social dynamics are shaken. This paper founds its
argumentation on three key concepts: language ecology, and power and agency in the heritage language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-88
Number of pages23
JournalFolklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore
Volume61
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

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Keywords

  • agency
  • bilingual and monolingual practices
  • convivial settings
  • language ecology and power
  • Vespian heritage language

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