Language Shift and Maintenance among young Udmurts


Wednesday 6 Novemeber, 12.00-12.30, E0104

In terms of language diversity the Udmurt Republic is a contact region where there are at least two languages in interaction, Udmurt and Russian, and two population groups, monolinguals, speaking only Russian, and bilinguals, speaking Udmurt and Russian. The contact situation raises the issue of interrelation of these languages. The Russian language continues to dominate in most domains of language use. Moreover, nowadays it occupies even private domain, replacing the Udmurt language. So, in the UNESCO World Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (, the Udmurt language is listed in the category of the “definitely endangered” languages. The data of three latest population censuses in Russia (1989, 2002, 2010) indicate an accelerating language shift towards the Russian language among ethnic Udmurts. Language loss occurs not only because of the deficiency of language transmission, but mostly because of negative language environment and its subjective perception by people.  In recent times, some activists have been undertaking certain activities directed at the Udmurt language and cultural revitalization. Despite the small number of participating activists and a limited impact of their activities, these revitalization attempts might be signs of the ethnic and language mobilization processes “from below”. 

The aim of the presentation is to discuss how language revitalization attempts of young Udmurts correlate with the general sociolinguistic situation in Udmurtia.  In my presentation I’m going to analyze language behaviour and choice both of ethnically mobilized and -indifferent individuals. Also I will discuss the ways of language shift and extinction and how the activists try to revitalize the language. The presentation will be based on the field-work data analysis (interviews with Udmurt youth), which demostrates that the revitalization discourse is to certain extent closed into its own shell.