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Sociolingüística internacional

Language Policy and Minority Language Planning in Russia: the case study of the Kalmyk language,
per Bossia Kornoussova


  • The texts of laws of the Republic of Kalmykia and of other legal documents are published in the state languages.

  • Voting and referendum papers are drawn up in Russian, but in accordance with a decision of the Electoral Commission of the Republic of Kalmykia, these papers can be published in Kalmyk alongside with Russian.

  • The state languages of the Republic of Kalmykia are used in the activities of the administrative authorities, local government bodies, enterprises, offices and organizations including record-keeping, texts of forms, stamps, seals, sigh boards, official papers such as passports, certificates of birth, marriage and death, etc. Even the products made by the enterprises of the Republic of Kalmykia are supposed to be supplied with labels, specifications and tags in Kalmyk and Russian.

  • Legal proceedings and record keeping in the courts and judicial authorities are carried through in Kalmyk and Russian.

  • Publication of newspapers and magazines of the Republic, TV and radio programmes are maintained in Kalmyk and Russian.

  • Place names and inscriptions, road signs and given in the Kalmyk and Russian languages.

The Language Act regulates all spheres of language functioning apart from the use of the languages of the peoples of Kalmykia in interpersonal.

The Act states that the Republic of Kalmykia is the sole national-administrative formation of the Kalmyk people and that care for the preservation, revival and development of the Kalmyk language as the most essential of its national characteristics and the basis of its spiritual culture is the responsibility of the administrative authorities of the Republic of Kalmykia. This is realized through the official recognition of its status, by creating conditions for its active use in the state and public spheres of life, by promoting its prestige, standardization and spread.

The Language Act also states that the power of state support is demonstrated in guarantees it gives to provide the social, economic and legal protection of languages. The social protection presupposes a scientifically based language policy aimed at preserving, developing and studying the languages. The economic protection insure a special line in the budget or other financial form of support of state and scientific programmes. The legal protection of languages presupposes the responsibility of juridical and physical persons for breaking the language laws of the Republic.

4.2. Corpus Planning

Language revival and development presupposes some corpus planning. If a language is use for new functions that it has not previously served, then corpus planning may need to be adapted or elaborated to make it suitable for the new communicative functions. Being announced as one of the state languages Kalmyk was supposed to be used in some new social domains as public administration, governmental services, law-making, economy, etc. It means corpus planning of the Kalmyk language should be developed to let it fulfill these new functions. Cooper (1989) identifies the following three aspects of corpus planning: standardization, modernization and graphization.

The Kalmyk language is considered to be a standard one, it has standardized grammar, phonetic, lexic and stylistic norms. But anyway the language reform started at the end of the 80s brought to discussion the issues like the influence of the Russian language, which resulted in numerous borrowings when nearly all the neologisms were of Russian origin. Linguistic purism became one of the targets of modern standardization process. The striving for language purism is an important aspect of minority languages' revival and promotion. According to Baschaeva the compilers of the explanatory dictionary of the Kalmyk language should meet the requirement of language purism. It is evident that the Kalmyk language, particularly the language of mass media, abounds in borrowing, which can easily be avoided. Any thing or phenomenon concerning various spheres of human life can be signified by means of the mother tongue. Moreover, Kalmyk offers good possibilities for word-formation, being a language of the agglutinative type (Baschaeva, 1999).

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