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Measuring language attitudes. The case of Trasianka in Belarus

Natallia Sender (Frankfurt/Oder)



Abstract

In contemporary Belarus there are currently two languages being predominantly used: Russian and Belarusian. Besides dialects and other varieties there is to be found a variety called Trasianka, which is widespread throughout the country. Trasianka can be considered as a variety built of elements from other varieties in Belarus, but mainly from Russian and Belarusian. Originally the term Trasianka stems from agriculture describing a 'mixed fodder of poor quality'. Language attitudes towards this variety have hardly been examined thus far. In a recent study based on the matched-guise technique, 227 Belarusian adolescents listened to and evaluated a female speaker reading the same text in Russian, Belarusian and Trasianka. When the speaker used Trasianka, she was given low ratings by test participants in matters of socio-structural issues such as profession and education. Regarding competence, the test participants assumed that the Trasianka speaker was less qualified, as shown by answers to a question on competencies in foreign languages. Finally, the test participants were more reluctant to accept the Trasianka speaker as a neighbor. With this responsiveness, they performed a bigger social distance. By these findings, there is ample reason to conclude that there are negative attitudes existing amongst today's population in Belarus regarding speakers of Trasianka.


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