Kazakhstan: Transformation of language ideology

Smagulova, Juldyz

King's College London, UK

WS127: Multilingualism in post-Soviet countries

The process of nation-state building involves creating new identity options, establishing symbolic links between identity and a language, and assigning new values to existing identities. The success depends on the degree of social cohesion in imagining of new self-evident, common sense reality (Pavlenko & Blackledge 2004). In Kazakhstan the state has been trying to sell a new Kazakhstani identity and convince its citizens that Kazakh is a legitimate state language, proficiency in which can provide better access to material and symbolic resources. While Kazakhstan remains a bilingual country with Russian language dominating most public spheres and majority of population having fluent proficiency in Russian, there are signs that the that hegemony of Russian has been challenged most notably at the level of language attitudes and beliefs. The paper presents the results of the mass survey conducted in Kazakhstan in 2006-2007. Special attention is given to the discrepancies in the survey data between reported language use of Kazakh and Russian and beliefs about the expected role of Kazakh and Russian in society. The paper argues that such an inconsistency in data may be indicative of social transformation.


Pavlenko, A. and Blackledge, A. (eds.). 2004. Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Multilingualism in post-Soviet countries
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 17