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Language hierarchies in Georgia: an experimental approach

In: Caucasus Survey
Authors:
Jesse Driscoll School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA

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Christofer Berglund Department of Government, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

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Timothy Blauvelt Soviet and Post Soviet Studies Department, Ilia State University/American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, Tbilisi, Georgia

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How do Georgian citizens of different nationalities evaluate people when they speak in different languages? This article presents the results of three sets of “matched-guise” experiments, a method long used by sociolinguists to evaluate attitudes to different language varieties and their speakers. The results are revealing of the language hierarchies that prevail in Tbilisi and in the southern border regions of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli (where Georgia’s Armenian and Azerbaijani populations are concentrated). Our results suggest that social rewards for linguistic assimilation from one national group to another are very low in both rural and urban parts of Georgia. These findings show that with linguistic assimilation unrewarded, contemporary language hierarchies leave room for Russian to be sustained as a bridge language between communities. The results also show that native speakers of English are afforded higher social status than native speakers of Russian in Tbilisi.

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