Discourses, Practices, and Behaviour: A Critical Study of Language Policy in Estonia

Delaney Michael Skerrett (2012). Discourses, Practices, and Behaviour: A Critical Study of Language Policy in Estonia PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Delaney Michael Skerrett
Thesis Title Discourses, Practices, and Behaviour: A Critical Study of Language Policy in Estonia
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-03-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Em. Prof. Roland Sussex
Prof Richard Baldauf
Total pages 241
Total colour pages 2
Total black and white pages 239
Language eng
Subjects 200405 Language in Culture and Society (Sociolinguistics)
200401 Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics
Abstract/Summary This thesis investigates attitudes towards and use of language in everyday communication in public places in Estonia. On the one hand, it focuses on language use “on the ground”, that is, the use/non-use of Estonian by staff in public and private organisations with customers who have Estonian as their dominant language of communication. On the other hand, it seeks to situate Estonian language use and policy within the emerging field of critical language policy and planning (CLPP) by investigating the discourses that frame linguistic behaviour. These are then related to the practices, or repeated activities, that maintain the activity uncovered by the investigation of everyday language use. The focus of the present critical language policy study is to uncover taken-for-granted categories framing social life, in particular those that maintain forms of inequality, and to investigate ways that these might be reshaped in order to bring about outcomes that take into account the everyday needs and realities of a greater proportion of Estonian society. Since Independence in 1991, Estonia has had language policy in place with the stated aim of reversing the language shift that occurred in the period of Soviet occupation (1940-1991). During that time, Russian became the language of prestige and mobility and the proportion of Estonian-speakers in the country dropped considerably. The normalisation and integration processes taking place in the post-Independence period present cases of significant theoretical and practical interest, particularly in terms of how the relationship between the different languages and ethnic groups in diverse societies can be managed. The poststructuralist perspective adopted in the thesis, furthermore, allows us to view operations of power not as the result of intergroup or interlingual tensions, but rather of discursive structures that privilege certain ways of knowing over others. This permits us to carry out critical analysis on how to promote more equitable outcomes, i.e., maintaining linguistic and cultural diversity while also working to minimise levels of social inequality. There were two main methods of data collection: language diaries and interviews. The aim of the language diary component was to obtain personal, naturalistic data about everyday language encounters. Participants were required to log, for a period of four weeks, details of their interactions with staff members in public and private organisations as they naturally occurred. The log had two central questions, one concerning the Estonian ability of the staff member, the other about the successfulness of the interaction, to which participants responded along a Likert-type scale. Participants also recorded numerous other variables related to the situation and the interlocutor. Interviews were conducted with various key ethnic Estonian and Russian-speaking figures in the field of language policy and planning (LPP), including representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Language Inspectorate, the Integration and Migration Foundation, and the Centre for Human Rights. The objective was to investigate the discourses framing these individuals’ views on LPP in Estonia and how these discourses relate to current as well as potential future linguistic practices in the country. Results indicate that Estonian enjoys “normalised” interethnic usage in the capital, Tallinn, but that Russian retains a relatively strong status in smaller towns in the capital region. There is also often little communication at all in interethnic transactions in public places. Integration and normalisation policies need to create social contexts that are conducive to practices of inclusion (i.e., mutual tolerance and meaningful interaction) between ethnic Estonians and Russian-speakers. This can be achieved through a rapprochement of discourses, by promoting a greater understanding of the attitudes, worldviews, and shared histories of the other group. At present, the discourses of many officials, ethnic Estonian and Russian-speaking alike, promote practices of exclusion (e.g., maintained separation of ethnic groups and lack of communication) rather than inclusion (e.g., integration and common language use). The findings afford us lessons for exploring more equitable and ethical outcomes for the future for all residents of Estonia. The particular critical, poststructuralist perspective employed in this research can be applied to the CLPP of any polity in order to evaluate this and propose modifications to bring about “preferred futures” (Pennycook, 2001).
Keyword Estonia
Soviet Union
Baltic studies
Language Policy
Critical Theory
queer theory
Languages in contact
Additional Notes landscape: p.91 and p. 98 colour: p.94 and p.96

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Created: Tue, 22 May 2012, 20:03:33 EST by Delaney Skerrett on behalf of Library - Information Access Service