This release of the OZ journal provides a wide range of views on the subject of linguistics under the general title Society in the Mirror of the Language, presenting an analysis of changes in the Russian language in the last two decades. The changes have taken effect not only in the language’s structure and lexicon, but also in its verbal behavior, and — even more broadly — in the speech environment that we all exist in. The shift has been happening so fast that the society and authorities cannot help, but pay attention to it. Many novelties, especially the broad penetration into public speech of swear-words and thieves’ argot, excessive word borrowing from foreign languages and youth slang, raise public concern. The most anxious observers speak of the old norm collapsing and the advent of a new language norm. The contributors to the present issue of OZ give scholarly analyses of the abovesaid occurrences and contemplate some effective strategies towards consolidating the so-called ‘proper’ language.
The influx of borrowed word and erosion of the norms of the standard Russian language, penetration of slang and swear words are, according to Maxim Krongauz (Notes of an Angry Man from the Street), a consequence and reflection of the social and technological changes of the recent years. In view of ongoing discussion of the draft “Federal Law on the National Language of the Russian Federation,” the author asserts that attempts to follow the French model of the state safeguarding the language are doomed to failure, and considers state interference in this field as unacceptable and generally adverse.
Aleksey Shmelyov in the The False Alert and the Real Trouble shows that worries about damage to the language are mostly groundless. As for the shift in language and speech norms, changes often take place in the conditions in which the language is functioning, and these conditions are often stipulated by social cataclysms. Certain danger do stem from the changes in linguistic imaging of the world as a result of wide usage of obscenities, swear words, thieves’ talk and cant. However, these deviations come not as a result of damage to the language, but from the lowering of overall moral standards. The real danger emanates from the proposed new “Federal Law on the National Language,” but there is hope that due to its vague wording and consequent difficulty of implementation, the law will not do much harm.
According to Leonid Krysin and his article Language Norm and Speech Practice, the conservatism of the norm is conducive to unity and stability of the standard language and serves as a link between subcultures of different generations and social strata. Also, whereas changes of the norm contribute to further development of the standard language at times of, shall we say, democratization of the standard language (i. e. influence on it by broad masses of people, who do not have good command of the norm) the latter loosens and the play between normative prescriptions and the real language usage becomes greater.
The article National Idea and Culture of Speech by Vladimir Belikov deals with a broad spectrum of issues associated with the nonstandard lexicon. The matter of discussion is the origin, usage, life cycle of obscenities and the like. The author also touches upon the question of what it means to have command of the Russian language. Styles of Speech and the Media is a summary of a round table discussion that took place in the editorial office of OZ on 8 June 2005. It was devoted to the attitude of journalists to changes taking place in the Russian language in the last years: namely the erosion of boundaries of styles of speech, spread of slang in speech genres, influence of Internet slang, as well as of ICQ— and SMS-fashion communication on spoken language, and the language used by the media. The participants (Maria Lipman, Olga Severskaya, Ekaterina Mil, Timur Kibirov, Maxim Kovalsky, Mark Grinberg, moderated by Maxim Krongauz) disputed whether these changes presented any threat to the language or were conducive to its development. Are the media to blame for the ‘spoiling of language?’ What is the trend in further language development? And also, can the media promote conservation of the language norm and the cultural tradition embodied in it?
Hard-Pushed Interviews. Writers, poets, critics (Sergey Ganlevskiy, Nina Gorlanova, Andrey Dmitriev, Natalya Ivanova, Aleksey Slapovskiy, Michael Uspenskiy, Elena Swartz, Michael Shishkin, and Asar Appel) answer an OZ-composed questionnaire and speak of their attitude to the changes that have taken place in the Russian language in the last 10—15 years, particularly to the flow of word-borrowings, to legitimization of obscene vocabulary, and to state interference in the language domain.
Alla Kirillina and Maria Tomskaya in the coauthored article Linguistic Gender-Aspect Studies analyze the history and the present state of study of two groups of problems. The first, the reflection of gender in the language, concerns how the presence of people of different sex is manifested, what nominative system, lexicon, syntax, gender categories, and so on, are employed, and what characteristics are ascribed to men and women. The second concerns the speech and, more generally, the communicative behavior of men and women, typical strategies and tactics, gender specific choices of lexicon units, and ways to success in communication, i.e. specifics of male and female parole.
Maria Buras in the article Orhtology and ‘Correct-Speech’ as a Religion of the New Sensitive tells us about the absurdities of political correctness with which American writers and journalists struggle. They publish mocking dictionaries of a politically correct vocabulary, retell old child tales in politically correct ‘proper’ language, and write satiric plays and pamphlets. Readers of OZ are offered excerpts from the famous “Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook” by H.Beard, and a tale by James Garner «Jack’s Lucky Bean» from the collection “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories.”
OZ presents a Russian translation of the first chapter “Production and Reproduction of a Legitimate Language” (“La production et la reproduction de la langue legitime”) from the book by Pierre Bourdieu “Ce que parler veut dire. L’economie des echanges linguistiques”. In the authors view, linguists in their theories operate with language as if it were a set object, while forgetting about the social conditions under which this object was created, or, at least, they conceal its social origins, ignore the purely political process of unification, as a result of which a whole group of ‘talking subjects’ just have to adopt an official language. Bourdieu analyzes the correlation of styles of speech of ‘talking subjects’ with their political and social position. Common language is forced by the school: better knowledge of a language translates into greater symbolic capital for the speaker, providing higher chances for career growth. One of the main notions in Bourdieu’s linguistic analysis is deviation. He plays with two meanings of the French word distinction — ‘difference’ and ‘refinement’ — Bourdieu shows how bourgeois ‘refined’ language stems from the bourgeois aspiration to stand out from the common people, whereas the language of modern intellectuals is a product of their ambition to be different from the bourgeois.
The article by Victor Zhivotov The Language and Revolution is a reflection on the book by the famous linguist A.M.Selischev “The Language of the Revolutionary Epoch” published long ago in 1928 but still today in its conceptual depth and broad range of references goes far beyond the genre of common review. Following A.M.Selischev, he examines the changes in the Russian language that took place in the first decade after the Russian Revolution of 1917, then he continues analysis through the period up to the 1990s. At that point, and contrary to his respectable predecessor, V.Zhivotov does not limit himself to description of mere linguistic changes, but shows how the language in itself becomes a stage for social struggle and the strongest means of social dominance of emerging new social groups.
In the article Word Rescuers Maxim Krongauz demonstrates differences in models of the interaction of society and language in Russia and France. In the former, discussion goes mostly around restrictive measures, whereas in the latter, there are consistently conducted different events aimed at supporting and raising importance of the French language. The author is notably good in the drawing of salient differences in approaches by comparing two strategies of determining and saving “critically endangered” words.
In his article Language Situation in the Regions of Modern Russia Vladimir Alpatov examines the functional aspects of the interplay of different ethnic and local languages and dialects with the national Russian language. The task of preserving vernaculars is pressing all over the world; their gradual extinction is viewed as perhaps a consistent pattern. Alpatov comes to the conclusion that slowing down this process is feasible only by implementing measures that are anti-market in character. The author tracks the often shortsighted language policies of the Russian authorities with regard to autonomous national entities and formations throughout the twentieth century; and he points out that at the present time there is a lack or even absence of any policies at all.
Larissa Naidich in the article The New Aliyah Safeguards Russian shows that a peculiar feature of immigrants coming to Israel since the 1990s has been their striving to preserve the Russian language in use and to conserve their cultural autonomy. For the majority of them Hebrew is nothing but a ‘survival language,’ while Russian stays the language of culture. The article speaks about Russian-speaking cultural life in Israel, about institutional support of the Russian language, and issues of teaching Russian as a foreign language at school. By analyzing language choices that Hebrew-Russian bilinguals have to make the author examines changes in local Russian parlance happening under the influence of Hebrew.
Gasan Guseinov (Russian in the Context of German) examines the psychological and social aspects of repatriation of the so-called ‘Russian Germans’ and Jewish immigration to Germany from Russia. Their status is often ambiguous and mostly prospectless. Being unable to turn away from their ‘soviet’ — meaning ‘welfare’ — mentality, they often-contrary to their initial aspirations — start to identify themselves in an alien environment as the ‘Russians.’ The Russian language becomes a linking agent for them. Attempt to assimilate into German society do often not receive support from the leading members of diasporas, representatives of which find it easier to establish themselves in Germany based upon the Russian-speaking infrastructure. On the other hand, the growing Russianspeaking faction of the population becomes a headache to German politicians, who — as the author underscores — do not have any articulate policy for the social adaptation of such immigrants.
Natalya Avina in The Language of Russian Diaspora in Modern Lithuania looks at local specifics of the language of the Russian Diaspora in Lithuania from the 1990s up till now, and reviews how it changes under the influence of the Lithuanian, Polish, and Byelorussian languages. The author comes to the conclusion that in foreign environments colloquial forms of the Russian language proliferate and become even greater than in the language in Russia per se. That is why the natural Russian-speech environment (everyday communication, language of the media) is often hard to recognize as satisfactory from the point of view of the culture of speech, and its developing potential dropped.
Elena Semyonova in How to Teach the Russian Language Abroad gives a review of reports presented at the International Forum “The Russian Language Outside Russia: Linguistic and Socio- Pedagogical Aspects of Culture Interaction” that took place in Berlin on 3—5 June 2005 under the auspices of the Association of Russian-Speaking Culture and Education Organizations in Europe “Eurolog.” The central topic of discussion was “The prospects of reproduction of the Russian language and culture outside Russia at the time of generation change of the Russian-speaking Diaspora,” and, from the outset, it focused on the practical aspects, i. e. pedagogical, methodological, and organizational issues. Linguistic and sociological aspects were understood by the participants mainly as a theoretical framework.
Irina Levotina in The Letter of the Law shows how forensic linguistic expertise in lawsuits works, specifically concerning cases dealing with patent law, advertisement regulations, civil suits of honor protection and business reputation defense, in criminal cases of slander and libel, criminal insult, and fomentation of ethnic dissension. The demand in linguistic expertise comes not only from the evaluation of disputed texts, but also by the functioning of legal norms, because the wording of many Russian laws allows for different interpretations. To avoid ambiguity, the author asserts, the linguists should be invited to bill drafting at the earliest stages of discussions.
Vladimir Plungyan in Why We Create the National Russian Language Corpus tells about the National Russian Language Corpus, work on which is underway as a part of a special program of the Russian Academy of Science. The Corpus is an electronic collection of texts marked out in a way making it possible to expeditiously find words and constructions with specified properties. The Corpus incorporates samples of practically all existing Russian language discourse — from an article by a modern musical critic to an instruction on how to grow cactuses, from stories by modernist writer Pelevin to a physics reference book. Editors of the Corpus, being well aware that in order to better and more adequately represent what is happening in the modern Russian language the scope of the Corpus should be broadened. Also included in it — along with written patterns — are examples from oral speech.
“The Country of OZ” section
Research by a lycee student from the town of Perm Lydmila Ladigina The Case of Engineer Dalinger was distinguished by the second grade reward at a contest “Man in the History, Russia — XX century.” It is devoted to the mysterious fate of the engineer Vladimir Dalinger. The work is based on the cases of 1937—1940 (investigative case 8060 and “Review Proceeding on counterrevolutionary charges against V.Dalinger”), along with other archive materials.
At the end of the twentieth century the Russian language system underwent heavy influence from social changes, the most significant of which touched upon the sphere of economic relations. That process is analyzed by Tatiana Milekhina in Entrepreneurs in the Language and Society on examples of usage of the word predprinimatel’ (an undertaker, entrepreneur) in the Russian language and culture of the newest time.