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Bukovyna State University of Finance and Economics, Chernivtsi city

У статті розглядається динаміка мовної ситуації в Україні у 1994-2007 роках. Дані щорічних моніторингових національних дослідженьдають підстави зробити висновок про те, що після проголошення незалежності баланс між виключно україномовним та виключно російськомовним населенням практично не змінився, натомість, двомовності значно поменшало. Проте, що стосується “внутрішньої” мови (якою люди думають), мови спілкування в громадських місцях та мови професійного спілкування, частка україномовної молоді скоротилася у порівнянні із середнім та старшим поколіннями, а частка російськомовної молоді зросла.

Ключові слова: динаміка мовної ситуації, двомовність, внутрішня мова, багатомовність, вибір мови, мова професійного спілкування.  

В данной статье рассматривается динамика языковой ситуации в Украине в 1994-2007 годах. Данные ежегодных мониторинговых национальных исследований дают основания сделать выводы о том, что после провозглашения независимости баланс между исключительно украиноязычным и исключительно русскоязычным населением практически не изменился, в то же время двуязычие значительно сократилось. Что же касается “внутреннего” языка (на котором думают), языка общения в общественных местах и языка профессионального общения, доля украиноязычной молодежи сократилось в сравнение со средним и старшим поколениями, а доля русскоязычной молодежи выросла.

Ключевые слова: динамика  языковой ситуации, двуязычие, внутренний язык, многоязычие, выбор языка, язык профессионального общения.  

The present article focuses on the study of language choice dynamics in Ukraine over the period from 1994 to 2007. The data of the annual national monitoring surveys give use ground to conclude that after gaining independence, the balance between the population speaking only Ukrainian and only Russian practically did not change, whereas the share of bilinguals significantly decreased.  As to the language of thinking, communication in public places and professional communication, the share of Ukrainian-speaking youth fell down compared to the middle and older generations, while the share of Russian-speaking youth grew up.

Key words: language choice dynamics, bilingualism, language of thinking, multilingualism, language choice, language of professional communication.

            The revealed peculiarities of the language choice shed light on the preferences of individuals belonging to different social, ethnic and age groups at a certain moment. But how do these preferences change over time? The present article will search for answers to these questions, in the context of the Ukrainian/Russian bilingualism in Ukraine, over the period from 1994 to 2007.

Describing the language choice in Ukraine in the 1990s, E. Holovaha and   N. Panina emphasized that over the last years since Ukraine gained independence people started to speak Russian even more often, most frequently this was observed amongst those people who earlier used to speak both languages interchangeably depending onthe communication situation [3]. This finding is somewhat surprising, particularly in the light of the Russian language losing its legal status after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. After gaining independence by Ukraine, one could expect the Russian language would lose its spread and popularity, or, at least, the share of people speaking both Russian and Ukrainian would significantly grow.

On the other hand, O.I. Vyshniak claims that “in spite of significant Ukrainization of secondary and higher education as well as mass media(since Ukraine gained independence), there were no serious changes in the balance between the Ukrainian and Russian languages in Ukraine” [1, p. 161].

M.S. Dnistrianskyy partly explains this reference, arguing that the present-day language situation in Ukraine formed many decades ago when Ukraine was part, first, of the Russian Empire, and, later, of the Soviet Union [4, p. 147].

In our study we will make use of the All-Ukrainian monitoring surveys of the language situation conducted in 1994-2007, as well as of generation and age-period-cohort methods of the research results analysis. The most large-scale monitoring project in Ukraine is the annual national monitoring survey with a sample of 1800 respondents, conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU) since 1994. Till 2000, surveys were rather limited in terms of coverage and included the following categories: only Ukrainian, only Russian, both Ukrainian and Russian depending on the circumstances, and other language.

The analysis of the dynamics of the number of people speaking a language in the family over 1994-2007 [5] reveals that in the 1990s the language choice balance, practically, did not change. When the categorical scale was modified in 2000, it turned out that the number of bilinguals reduced significantly (from 27-34 % in the 1990s to 22-23% in 2005-2007), but the balance between Ukrainian and Russian speakers, in point of fact, remained the same.

While the overall balance of the languages spoken in the family stagnated, the regional differentiation of language practices over the research period grew up [5]. In Western Ukraine the number of people talking Ukrainian in the family increased by 7.5%, in North-East – by 10.2%, in Central Ukraine – by 4.6%, in South-East – by 3.6%, and in Donbas area – by 1.3%. In other words, in mostly Ukrainian speaking regions the number of people speaking Ukrainian in the families somewhat increased; in mostly Russian speaking regions the number of people speaking Ukrainian in the families decreased insignificantly. At the same time, the number of people speaking Russian in Western Ukraine and in North-East reduced by 1-2%, while in Donbas area and in South-East it grew by 5.2% and 4.5%, respectivle.

The drawback of the monitoring surveys over 10-15 years is that they neither provide answers to the question of the language choice over a longer period of time (including several decades in the history of the Ukrainian SSR) on the one hand, nor reveal the dynamics of the language choice be it in the family or in the public sphere, on the other hand.

The generation method provides a more detailed analysis of the language choice dynamics. The All-Ukrainian May 2007 survey results analysis of the language choice, considering the present-day generations, reveal, that compared to their parents, the number of people speaking only Ukrainian in their families decreased by 5.2%, and the number of people speaking mostly Ukrainian in their families decreased by 4.9%. At the same time, across generations, there can be observed that the number of people speaking a mixed Ukrainian-Russian language increased by 2.4%, the number of those speaking only Russian – by 1.5%, and the number of those speaking mostly Russian by 4.6% [2, p. 57].

Considering language changes from the previous to the present-day generations in the regional dimension [2, p. 56], it is easy to observe that the number of families speaking only Ukrainian has mostly reduced in the South and South East (by 7%), in Central Ukraine and in North-East (by 6.2%), but not in the extreme, from the language choice point of view, regions (Western Ukraine, on the one hand, and Donbas area and the Crimea, on the other hand). These regions also registered the highest growth of the number of people speaking mostly Russian (by 6.2% in the South and South East), in Central Ukraine and North East (by 5.3%). The number of people speaking only Russian compared with their parents generation grew only in Donbas area and in the Crimea (by 3.4%).

However, the generation method does not give a straightforward answer to the question when the language choice shift from one generation to another took place. This shift could presumably take place either 50 years ago when the present-day 70 year old people were leaving their parents families, or 30 years ago when the present-day 50 year old people were entering their adulthood, or during the last 15 years in independent Ukraine. That is the why the combination of generation method with the age-period-cohortanalysis acquires special significance. It suggests that the share of families speaking only Ukrainian in the family reduced both in the older (over 55 years old), in the middle (30-54 years old), and in the younger (18-29 years old) generations, but the pace of this decrease was the highest in the older generation, i.e. by 8.6 %, while in the middle generation it was by 4.3%, and in the young generation it was 2.2%. Conversely, the growth rate of mostly Russian speaking families reached its peak in the middle generation (7.1%), compared to the young generation (3.2%) and the older generation (2.0%).

Thus, it can be asserted that the tendency of the present-day Ukrainian speaking families compared to the previous two generations (formed in the Soviet Union) to reduce in share persevered though it has slowed down, while the share of Russian speaking families continues to grow at a lower rate (compare: in the middle generation, only or mostly Ukrainian was spoken by 37.4% of people, whereas now – 35.9%, a mixed Russian/Ukrainian language – 18.5% and 19.3% correspondingly, while only or mostly Russian – 43.5% and 45.4% correspondingly).  

As to the language people think in their everyday life, the share of young people (18-29 years old) who think in Ukrainian reduced by 8.4% compared to middle generation (30-54 years old), whereas the share of young people who think only or mostly in Russian increased by 4.9% [2, p. 59].

In the area of public sphere communication the share of young people speaking only Ukrainian decreased by 5.8% compared to the middle generation, while the share of young people speaking only or mostly Russian increased by 7.5% compared to the middle generation. It should be noted that the rate of these processes insignificantly slowed down compared to the previous period [2, p. 57].

In the sphere of professional communication (in the office, in one’s studies, etc.) the share of young people who speak only Ukrainian reduced by 7.5% compared to the middle generation, while the share of those speaking mostly Ukrainian increased by 3.0%, the share of people speaking mixed Russian/Ukrainian increased by 1.2%, and the share of mostly or only Russian speakers increased by 2.3%.

In this way, the results of the monitoring analysis allow us to conclude that in spite of all the efforts made to increase the spread of the Ukrainian language in Ukraine after gaining independence, the balance between Ukrainian and Russian speakers has not changed, instead the number of bilinguals has significantly decreased triggering a sharper differentiation between Ukrainian and Russian speakers.

A combination of the generation method with the age-period-cohort analysis helps us to conclude, that referring to the language of thinking, public sphere and professional communication in present-day Ukraine, the share of young Ukrainian speakers decreased compared to the middle and older generations, while the share of young Russian speakers increased. In fact, currently, in Ukraine, the share of young people (aged 18-29) who think only in Russian exceed the share of young people who think only in Ukrainian by 18%. The number of young people speaking only Russian in public sphere exceeds the number of young people who speak only Ukrainian by 17.6%. In their professional communication young Russian speakers exceed the Ukrainian youngsters by 13.6%. In terms of possible further research, a promising direction could be the study of efficiency and effects of language policies conducted in Ukraine over the last decades.


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