Vol 25, No 4 (2021): The Russian Language Maintenance and Language Contacts of Post-Soviet Immigrants in Europe and Beyond


The Russian language maintenance and language contacts

Zabrodskaja A., Ivanova O.


In our introductory article, we outline the main sociolinguistic features of Russian as a heritage language of post-Soviet immigrants in European settings and beyond. We offer a general overview of the evolution of Russian as a global language, with a particular focus on its geodemographics and economic and social value as a lingua franca . Based on this, we analyse the main principles defining the maintenance of Russian as a language of migration and as a heritage language in different countries, and emphasise the most important questions that still need to be addressed in this field of research. The main objective of this special issue is to combine the most recent research on the vitality of different languages of post-Soviet republics in new political milieu, with a particular focus on European and Asian countries, but there are other objectives as well. We propose to explore the factors that have either favoured or hindered the maintenance and transmission of languages of post-Soviet immigrants and repatriates, and how these sociolinguistic processes become evident in language vitality on both private and public levels. Our special issue primarily addresses the questions of family language policy, new language contacts and their management, and linguistic landscape in heritage speakers, diasporas and their new settings in Europe, Asia and the US.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):828-854
pages 828-854 views

Maintenance of Russian as a heritage language in Germany: A longitudinal approach

Brehmer B.


The study discusses the perspectives of long-term maintenance of Russian as a heritage language in Germany. Based on data from a longitudinal study (2014-2018) we investigated changes in the sociolinguistic situation of 19 adolescent heritage speakers and in their proficiency in Russian. The aim was to investigate whether changes in the participants’ sociolinguistic situation are reflected in their knowledge of Russian. Data on the sociolinguistic situation were collected via an extensive questionnaire that the participants had to fill out once a year. Language proficiency was measured by experimental tasks targeting different linguistic domains. For the current paper, we used data from the longitudinal measurement of lexical and grammatical proficiency. The results revealed that the participants’ exposure to Russian input is decreasing in several domains over time, especially concerning media consumption and personal visits to the homeland. Russian is increasingly restricted to interactions with parents, and to educational settings (classes in Russian as a foreign or heritage language). Regarding language attitudes, our participants explicitly consider Russian important primarily for family interactions and cultural factors, but less with regard to career goals. Nevertheless, there was a positive trend in lexical and grammatical proficiency. We interpret these findings as a result of the prolonged exposure to heritage language instruction which leads to a stabilized proficiency in Russian. Given the institutional support and the size of the community, we hypothesize that the perspectives for long-term maintenance of Russian as a heritage language in Germany are better than for Russian heritage speaker communities in other countries.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):855-885
pages 855-885 views

Israeli Russian: Case morphology in a bilingual context

Meir N., Avramenko M., Verkhovtceva T.


The current study investigates case morphology development in a bilingual context. It is aimed at investigating potential mechanisms driving divergences in heritage language grammars as compared to the “baseline monolingual standards.” For the purposes of the study, 95 bilingual and monolingual children and adults were compared. Bilinguals residing in Israel acquired Russian from birth, while the age of onset of Hebrew varied. The participants completed a production task eliciting accusative case inflections. Both child and adult heritage speakers of Russian with early age of onset of Hebrew (before the age of 5) showed divergences in the production of the accusative case inflections as compared to monolingual Russian-speaking controls (adult and child), whereas grammars of Israeli heritage Russian speakers with later ages of onset of Hebrew, after the age of 5, were found to be intact. On the basis of Russian in contact with Hebrew, the study discusses how heritage language grammars differ from the baseline grammars of monolingual speakers and which mechanisms are associated with heritage language ultimate attainment. The effects of the age of onset and cross-linguistic influence from the dominant societal language are discussed as potential factors affecting the acquisition / maintenance of linguistic phenomena in heritage language grammars.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):886-907
pages 886-907 views

Does language transfer explain it all? The case of first language change in Russian-English bilinguals

Isurin L.


The present paper discusses findings from an empirical study looking into grammatical changes of Russian as the native language under the influence of English as a foreign language in a group of Russian-English bilinguals residing in the U.S. Twenty monolingual Russians and thirty Russian-English bilinguals participated in the study. All bilingual participants emigrated from Russia after their Russian language was fully acquired and had lived in the U.S. for 10-31 years prior to the time of the study. A semi-structured interview targeting autobiographical memories was employed as an elicitation technique. The analysis of narratives revealed distinctive changes in Russian in the two domains: word order and null subject use. The observed changes in the use of null pronominals suggested transfer from English. Bilinguals with more exposure to English used null pronominals less frequently. However, the directionality of effect in the use of the inverted word order by bilinguals was opposite to the predictions. Bilinguals with a very limited current exposure to Russian retained the inverted word order better than bilinguals with a broad exposure to Russian. Changes in the use of the inverted word order were partly attributed to the observed changes in the use of impersonal and existential sentences. The paper argues against cross-linguistic influence as the sole explanation of the first language changes.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):908-930
pages 908-930 views

Translanguaging space and translanguaging practices in multilingual Russian-speaking families

Karpava S., Ringblom N., Zabrodskaja A.


Translanguaging is seen both as a threat and as an opportunity for minority language development and transmission. While the theme of translanguaging has been explored especially in a context of migration, the novelty of this study lies in its investigation of the multiple contexts in which translanguaging is examined. In order to understand the nature of translanguaging, we adopt a novel interdisciplinary approach and view it in all its complexity, including liminal spaces of linguistic landscape. Family language policy affects the home linguistic environment. Our purpose is to investigate language choices by multilingual Russian-speakers in Cyprus, Sweden and Estonia, immigrant and minority settings, and try to understand how they are reflected in the multilingual interaction of the families. Using ethnographic participant observations and oral spontaneous multilingual production, our study attempts to describe how communication is managed through translanguaging practices among multilingual Russian-speaking families’ members in the cultural and linguistic environments of the three countries. By looking closely at the complexities of translanguaging space, it is our ambition to gain new insights about how it is organised and how translanguaging becomes a valuable linguistic resource in multilingual families. Our results indicate that translanguaging practices can be used in family conversational contexts and contribute to the creation of a rich and positive family repertoire. A new norm of Russian has been developed in all the three settings. A language shift can happen more quickly than expected, and, thus, it is important for parents to provide many opportunities for practising Russian as the L1.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):931-957
pages 931-957 views

Language choice and language contact in print advertisements for Russian-speaking immigrants in Germany

Ritter A.


This study aims to analyze linguistic contact in a written language on a sample of advertisements for Russian-speaking immigrants in the German city of Nuremberg, where there is a well-developed infrastructure for Russian-speaking immigrants, including the availability of periodicals. The study has the following research questions: What functions do Russian and German, as well as other languages, perform in advertisements in periodicals for Russian-speaking immigrants? Is there a correlation between the subject matter of the ads and the language or languages used? What phenomena of language contact found in the spoken language of Russian-speaking immigrants are characteristic of advertisements? A corpus consisting of 443 advertisements, obtained through continuous sampling from periodicals, was collected for the study. The analysis revealed that Russian, German, English, Ukrainian, and Latin fulfil specific functions in the advertisements. It was found that, depending on the subject matter, advertisers choose a particular language or language combination for their ads. At the lexical and morphosyntactic levels were identified borrowings from German and English, entirely or partially grammatically integrated into Russian, and cases of code-switching between Russian and German. Thereby, the study highlights one aspect of the linguistic situation of the Russian-speaking community in Germany and may implicitly serve to assess the vitality of the Russian language in Germany.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):958-980
pages 958-980 views

Russian in the multilingual environment of three Asian countries

Protassova E., Suryanarayan N., Yelenevskaya M.


This article provides a comparative analysis of the sociolinguistic situation in three Asian countries, India, Japan, and South Korea, which are relatively less known as countries where the Russian language is used. The aim of the study is to assess the significance of the Russian language in these countries’ Russian-speaking diasporas, business sphere, and education, as well as to define the characteristics of its teaching in the cultural contexts under discussion. In all these domains processes of language commodification are intensifying. The countries chosen for analysis differ in the history of language contacts, political relations with Russia, language policy, language attitudes, and as a result, residents’ motivation for maintaining and learning the Russian language. We discuss similarities and differences in the development of Russian speech communities. We also reflect upon linguistic and cultural hybridity, and in particular, its effect on the evolution of multilingual identities on the basis of interviews, fieldnotes, internet resources, and published data. The results show that in Japan and South Korea, the number of immigrants, students, businesspeople and mixed families using Russian is growing, and Russian language schools are popular; in India, the established relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation through various treaties continues to have its effect on the popularity of the Russian language in various spheres of life. In all the three countries Russian serves as a lingua franca for immigrants from different post-Soviet countries, which increases its value for the diasporans. The study argues that realities of diasporic life contribute to the pluricentric trends in the development of Russian.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):981-1003
pages 981-1003 views

Normalizing a new language hierarchy: Event names in post-Soviet urban space

Smagulova J., Madiyeva D.


Naming practices not only reveal ideological contestation in a particular community, but also contribute to the discursive construction of a new social reality. However, the transformative role of naming practices as a semiotic resource for reimagining language hierarchy has been overlooked. This socio-onomastics study aims to explore shifting ideological premises and semiotic mechanisms of normalizing a new language hierarchy in post-Soviet urban space. In doing so, the study diachronically examines naming practices of choosing and using event names, which are more fluid and often short-lived in comparison to other names such as toponyms, anthroponyms or brand names. The study analyses 1246 unique event names mentioned in a local Russian-language newspaper “Вечерний Алматы” (“Vechernii Almaty”) over the period of time from 1989 to 2019. The results show a decrease in the use of Russian for name production. Further examination reveals a steady increase in non-integrated event names in Kazakh and English in Russian-language newspaper texts; there are few examples of translation and transliteration, no examples of transcription or loanwords in more recent texts. Our comparison shows that in the context of the multilingual Almaty transgressing the purist norms of standard Russian has become a new norm. We argue that these new local strategies of naming and using names are a semiotic mechanism of domination; they work to normalize a new language hierarchy where the Russian language is no longer the only dominant code of the public and official domain. Our account adds to the discussion of the discursive power of naming in challenging dominant language practices.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1004-1023
pages 1004-1023 views

Language attitudes, practices and identity in the new Lithuanian diaspora

Ramonienė M., Ramonaitė J.T.


After the changes in the socio-political situation in many countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the last decade of the 20th century, these countries experienced a major growth of emigration. In the context of the European Union, Lithuania is one of the countries that has faced the highest rates of emigration. The quick and somewhat sporadic emigration mainly for economic reasons is of interest both to linguists and language policy makers in order to support and give guidelines for the maintenance of the heritage language and identity. This paper deals with the data of the new post-Soviet wave of Lithuanian emigrants analysing the language behaviour and language attitudes. The aim is to look into the issues of language attitudes, practices and identity through the tripartite theoretical model - beliefs, emotions and declared language practices - of this wave and to compare it to the overall context of Lithuanian diaspora. The data analysed in this paper has been collected using quantitative (online surveys) and qualitative methods (in-depth interviews) in two research projects in the Lithuanian diaspora in 2011-2017. The main focus is on the use of the heritage Lithuanian language in various domains (home, community, friendship, church), comparing the use of Lithuanian by the post-Soviet emigrants with the language behaviour of the emigrants of earlier emigration waves. The results show equally positive beliefs and affective attitudes of the post-Soviet emigrants compared to previous waves, but a different language behaviour especially when comparing to the emigrants of the end of World War II.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1024-1046
pages 1024-1046 views

Family language policy in Russian-Estonian and Russian-Spanish multilingual settings

Ivanova O., Zabrodskaja A.


This paper primarily focuses on the family language policy of bilingual Russian-Estonian and Russian-Spanish families in relation to the maintenance of Russian as a heritage language. Its main objective is to identify social factors that either help or hinder this process. In doing so, this paper searches for commonalities and specificities of the mainstream attitudes towards Russian as a heritage language in Estonia and Spain, by analysing the sociolinguistic situation of Russian in both countries and by examining the factors conditioning the maintenance of Russian as a heritage language in family settings. Our research is based on an in-depth analysis of a variety of sources, mainly quantitative statistical and demographic data on self-reported language behaviour and language ideologies in mixed families from Estonia (n = 40) and Spain (n = 40). The main results of our comparative study confirm the general positive attitude towards Russian as a heritage language, but they also highlight an important variability of these attitudes both between countries and within each community. We show that these attitudes directly determine the principles of family language policy, the parents’ strategies to transmit Russian as a heritage language, and the level of proficiency in Russian as a heritage language in the second generation. These results allow us to conclude that, as a heritage language, Russian relies on strong attitudinal support in even small communities, like Estonian or Spanish, but also that its confident transmission should rely on external subsidy.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1047-1070
pages 1047-1070 views

Comprehension of Ukrainian by Estonians via Russian: Structural and extra-linguistic aspects

Branets A., Verschik A.


This study explores how people use and expand their linguistic resources in the situation when they have some proficiency in L2 and try to understand L3 that is related to L2. The focus of the study is on the comprehension of Ukrainian by Estonian L1 speakers via their proficiency in Russian (L2). This situation is labeled as mediated receptive multilingualism. The aim of this research is to investigate the role of cross-linguistic similarity (objective or perceived, in the terms of Ringbom 2007) and extra-linguistic predictors of success in comprehension. In addition to measuring the success rate, we pay attention to the participant's perspective. The experiment was conducted with 30 speakers of Estonian as L1 and included a questionnaire, C-test in Russian, three Ukrainian texts with different groups of tasks, and debriefing. In this article, we focus on the task of defining Ukrainian words from the text and on debriefing interviews. The results showed that similarity, perceived or objective, is not the only decisive factor in facilitating understanding. The participants’ explanations confirmed our previous findings that similarity, albeit important, is only partly responsible for successful comprehension. This became clear from the debriefing interviews. In many cases, the participants' choice was affected by a range of extra-linguistic factors: general knowledge, context, exposure to various registers of Russian, M-factor, meta-linguistic awareness, and learnability. In some instances, context and general knowledge outweighed similarity. These findings show how similarity worked together with extra-linguistic factors in facilitating successful comprehension in challenging multilingual settings.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1071-1102
pages 1071-1102 views

Russian language maintenance among multilingual teachers in Israeli educational settings

Putjata G.


The present paper focuses on language maintenance among multilingual teachers and presents a research project with Russian-Hebrew speakers on their ideas of language-related normality in educational settings. The main objective is to investigate the role of migration-related multilingual teachers within the ‘multilingual turn.’ The project approached the topic from three perspectives: the macro level of educational policies, the meso level of educational institutions, and the micro level of linguistic development. Data were collected through biographical interviews with 17 teachers and interpreted within the theoretical framework of language beliefs using the concepts of linguistic market, language awareness and language education policy as well as pedagogical competence. The results show the close interconnectedness of language beliefs on all the three levels. They also show that beliefs can experience a reconstruction. In order to challenge the monolingual idea of normality among teachers, an interwoven intervention on all the three levels is necessary: there is a need for education policy measures (macro level) that would anchor training on dealing with multilingualism (meso level) in regular teacher training and, in doing so, would draw on the existing migration-related multilingual practices of prospective teachers (micro level). This interaction between top-down (professionalization in dealing with multilingualism anchored in educational policy) and bottom-up (migration-related multilingual practices among prospective teachers) measures can enable a shift toward multilingualism as an idea of normality in educational contexts. This paper contributes to a better understanding of the formation, development and reconstruction of language-related idea of normality among teachers and discusses its methodological and theoretical implications.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1103-1125
pages 1103-1125 views


Review of Andrea C. Schalley & Susana A. Eisenchlas (eds.). 2020. Handbook of Home Language Maintenance and Development: Social and Affective Factors.Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-1-5015-1689-4

Guseynova I.A.



Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1126-1135
pages 1126-1135 views

Review of Sonia Wilson. 2020. Family Language Policy: Children’s Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-030-52437-1 (eBook)

Nandi A.



Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1136-1142
pages 1136-1142 views

Review of Svetlana Moskvitcheva & Alain Viaut (eds.). 2019. Minority Languages from Western Europe and Russia. Comparative Approaches and Categorical Configurations. Switzerland, Springer. ISBN 978-3-030-24339-5

Aleksandrova O.I.



Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(4):1143-1149
pages 1143-1149 views

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