The effect of the current military conflict in Ukraine on Language use and Language attitudes
Marieke Droogsma
(Leiden University)
Friday (April 21st), 15:45-16:10
Lipsius 148

The language situation in Ukraine is both highly complex and politically sensitive: while Ukrainian is the official state language, Russian is the dominant language nationwide in some domains, for example in the media. Nonetheless, Russian has no official status except on a regional level. Since violent conflict erupted in 2014, the language issue in Ukraine has come to the center of attention, as the conflict is framed (amongst other things) as though it were between Russian-speaking separatists and Ukrainian-speaking troops/government. 

In this presentation, the possible effects of the conflict on the language use and attitudes in Ukraine will be analyzed, drawing on Accommodation Theory (Giles 1973) and the idea of intentional language change elaborated by Thomason (2006). Data from existing sociological surveys both prior to and after 2014 will be compared to the results of an online survey carried out in February 2017. It is expected that data from after 2014 will point to divergence, as it is likely Ukrainians want to dissociate themselves from Russia and thus from the Russian language. This could possibly result in increased use and stronger preferences for Ukrainian. As language is a symbol of group tensions, language differences can be codified and portrayed in such a way that they create more distance and hostility between the groups that are on opposing sides of the conflict (cf. Chilton 1998).

Chilton, P., 1998, “The role of language in human conflict: prolegomena to the investigation of language as a factor in conflict causation and resolution”, in: S. Wright, Language and Conflict: A Neglected Relationship, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 2-17
Giles, H., (1973) “Accent mobility: a model and some data”, Anthropological Linguistics, vol. 15, no. 2, p. 87-105
Thomason, S., (2006) “Language change, intentional”, Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, p. 346-349