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Applied Linguistics Review

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Metalinguistic comments and multilingual awareness: Estonian-Russian language contacts in blogs

Anna Verschik
Published Online: 2017-10-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0049


The paper focuses on the manifestation of multilingual awareness (MLA) and the impact of Estonian in Russian-language blogs by ethnic Russians. MLA can be defined as “an ability to focus on linguistic form and to switch focus between form and meaning” (Jessner, Ulrike. 2014. On multilingual awareness or why the multilingual learner is a specific language learner. In Miroslaw Pawlak & Larissa Aronin (eds.), Essential topics in applied linguistics and multilingualism. Studies in Honor of David Singleton, 175–184. Wien: Springer.). The purpose is to show that metalinguistic comments form as a subcategory of metalinguistic awareness, i.e., the latter conditions the former but not vice versa. I consider not only explicit examples of metalinguistic comments, such as discussion on differences between Russian of Russia and Russian in Estonia, proficiency in Estonian, sometimes including discussions on fine points of Estonian grammar, but also implicit and more subtle examples, such as visual separation of Estonian stems and Russian inflections, playful switches from Cyrillic to Latin characters and back within a sentence or even a word. All blogs are in the Live Journal environment, a medium which combines features of stand-alone blogs and social networks. The bloggers are reasonably proficient in Estonian and work or study in a predominantly Estonian-language environment. Data comes from fifteen blogs from the period 2008–2012. The bloggers position themselves as autonomous language users and consider blogs as their private virtual space with an individual language policy. This is in accordance with the views of some contact linguists (e.g., Thomason, Sara Grey. 2007. Language contact and deliberate change. Journal of Language Contact 1. 41–62.), who consider change by deliberate decision as one of the mechanisms of contact-induced language change.

Keywords: multilingualism; metalinguistic awareness; language contacts; Estonian; Russian


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-10-25

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0049.

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