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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Russian–Estonian language contacts, linguistic creativity, and convergence: New rules in the making

Anna Verschik

Citation Information: Multilingua. Volume 24, Issue 4, Pages 413–429, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: 10.1515/mult.2005.24.4.413, December 2005

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The paper discusses several phenomena in contemporary Estonian–Russian language contacts with a focus on attitudes, code-switching, convergence and the emergence of new varieties. The contact situation is recent and provides a good opportunity for microsociolinguistic research. The article describes some instances of bilingual linguistic creativity (derivation of new words from Estonian stems with Russian derivational suffixes, use of bilingual homophones, jocular relexification), as well as code-switching as a means of in- and out-group communication. Code-switching may sometimes result in what is called here ‘paradoxical politeness’ when a dominant speaker of language A uses language B and vice versa. Possibly, a new variety (‘market discourse’) with limited use between salespersons and their customers is emerging. The variety is used in a Russian-to-Estonian communication when a Russian speaker has a limited command of Estonian. The main features of the ‘market discourse’ are as follows: Estonian nouns appear in the nominative singular, seldom in the plural, sometimes Estonian adjectives, numerals and discourse markers are inserted into the Russian matrix.

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