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Cornell University Press
Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine / Edition 1

Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine / Edition 1

by Laada BilaniukLaada Bilaniuk
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During the controversial 2004 elections that led to the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, cultural and linguistic differences threatened to break apart the country. Contested Tongues explains the complex linguistic and cultural politics in a bilingual country where the two main languages are closely related but their statuses are hotly contested. Laada Bilaniuk finds that the social divisions in Ukraine are historically rooted, ideologically constructed, and inseparable from linguistic practice. She does not take the labeled categories as givens but questions what "Ukrainian" and "Russian" mean to different people, and how the boundaries between these categories may be blurred in unstable times.

Bilaniuk's analysis of the contemporary situation is based on ethnographic research in Ukraine and grounded in historical research essential to understanding developments since the fall of the Soviet Union. "Mixed language" practices (surzhyk) in Ukraine have generally been either ignored or reviled, but Bilaniuk traces their history, their social implications, and their accompanying ideologies. Through a focus on mixed language and purism, the author examines the power dynamics of linguistic and cultural correction, through which people seek either to confer or to deny others social legitimacy. The author's examination of the rapid transformation of symbolic values in Ukraine challenges theories of language and social power that have as a rule been based on the experience of relatively stable societies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801472794
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 02/15/2006
Series: Culture and Society after Socialism
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Laada Bilaniuk is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington.

What People are Saying About This

Alexandra Jaffe

"Laada Bilaniuk presents linguistic information in a way that makes it accessible to nonspecialists. Contested Tongues will appeal to readers interested in post-Soviet politics and culture, anthropology, political science, sociology, and history, as well as to those who are interested in the processes of language contact, change, politics, and ideology."

Anna Fournier

"A thorough and insightful account of the struggle of linguistic and social values brought to the fore by Ukrainian independence. The book is well grounded in the history of language policies and practices in the country, and it makes clear to the readers what is at stake in the differentiation or rapprochement of two related Slavic languages."

Joseph Errington

"Here in all its immediacy is the changing texture of life in post-Soviet Ukraine, portrayed with the nuance and synthetic breadth that marks the best language-centered accounts of social change. Whether readers come to it with an interest in the shifting grounds of identity and political practice or the social shaping of language ideology and practice, they will be sure to gain much from this rigorous but accessible treatment."

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