Age and Language Choice in Multilingual Settings of Lithuania

Meilute Ramoniene

Vilnius University, Lithuania


Since the restoration of independence in 1990, Lithuania, like other Baltic countries, have witnessed socio-political transformation leading to radical changes in sociolinguistic situation. The new language policy influenced, in particular, linguistic attitudes and behaviour of ethnic minorities, comprising about 16 per cent of Lithuania’s population. Poles and Russians, the largest ethnic groups in Lithuania, who knew little or no Lithuanian before the restoration of independence, have modified their language practices which also influenced their language choice. It should be emphasized that former monolingual speakers of Russian (mainly Poles, Russians and other nationalities in Soviet times) have increasingly become bilingual or multilingual. Moreover, the use of Lithuanian in public and private spheres has become much more frequent.

The paper aims to explore the impact of age on the choice of language practices in the changed sociolinguistic situation. The research is based on the data from two major surveys on local language use and attitudes carried out in 2002 and 2004 in the densely multilingual settings of capital Vilnius and south-eastern Lithuania and newly acquired qualitative data. The paper investigates how different ethnic minorities and different age groups for public and private use choose between Lithuanian as a state language and other languages (Russian, Polish). Particular attention is paid to the choice of the local spoken vernacular ‘po-prostu’(‘simple language’) used by Lithuanian Poles in different age groups. This language variety has low overt prestige among older people; however, it is becoming more prestigious and is being used more often as a marker of Polish identity among younger Polish population. Finally, the paper analyzes the language chosen for home use by primary school children. The analysis of this aspect draws on the pilot research of home language in the largest cities of Lithuania carried out in 2006.

Session: Paper session
Age 1
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 14