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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 2, 2014

University language policies and language choice among Ph.D. graduates in Estonia: The (unbalanced) interplay between English and Estonian

Josep Soler-Carbonell EMAIL logo


The role of English as a global language and its consequences for the internationalization of higher education are matters that have increasingly drawn the attention of researchers from different fields of language and communication. In this paper, an overview of the situation in Estonia is presented. The Estonian context has not previously been analyzed along these lines. The author suggests looking at Ph.D. dissertations as a site of tension between the need to effectively incorporate English as an academic language and the need to maintain Estonian as the national language. The article views this question in the context of some relevant language policy documents and other macro indicators. It then focuses on the number of Ph.D. dissertations defended at four main public universities in the last few years and the languages they have been written in. It appears that, although the language policy documents seem to correctly capture this tension between English and Estonian, the language most commonly used when writing dissertations is overwhelmingly English, with only the humanities providing some counterbalance to that trend. The current situation is different from that of past decades, when English was absent from Estonia’s scientific production and Estonian was significantly employed in that context, alongside Russian. In the discussion section, some lines for further inquiry are presented, together with a proposal for integrating complexity theory in such analyses.

Published Online: 2014-6-2
Published in Print: 2014-6-1

©2014 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin Boston

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