Correlation between social and linguistic parameters in modeling language contact: evidence from endangered Finnic varieties

Elena Markus 1  and Fedor Rozhanskiy
  • 1 University of Tartu, Estonia


This article discusses a case of language competition between two minority languages, Votic and Ingrian. We analyze the sociolinguistic situation in the contact area, and the contact-induced linguistic changes in both languages. Although the two languages had a very similar fate, and the same premises for language competition, Ingrian appears to have been more socially prestigious and was for a long period of time gradually replacing Votic. It is shown that the two languages chose different strategies for interaction. The Ingrians preserved their strong identity but transformed their language significantly, and thus achieved an easier understanding with their neighbors. On the other hand, the Votes were unwilling to adapt their language to contact influence, but shifted easily to their neighbors' identity. We suggest distinguishing between two types of volatility: social volatility, which describes the willingness of a nation to shift to a new language and identity; and linguistic volatility, which denotes the readiness of speakers to adopt innovations from a neighboring language. In minority vs. minority competition, the two types of volatility often demonstrate inverse tendencies: high volatility on the linguistic level corresponds to low volatility on the social level, and vice versa.

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IJSL is dedicated to the development of the sociology of language as a truly international and interdisciplinary field in which various approaches - theoretical and empirical - supplement and complement each other, contributing thereby to the growth of language-related knowledge, applications, values and sensitivities. The journal features topically-focused issues with individual contributions on small languages and small language communities.