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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

A Dying Language

In 1989, there were about 270-300,000,000 Russian-speakers in the world. 

Today, there are about 170,000,000.

Languages that don’t find an expression in a valuable, attractive culture fade away. 

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9 thoughts on “A Dying Language

  1. TomW on said:

    Wow. I wonder how much of that is the collapse of Russian teaching in Eastern Europe and the various former Soviet republics. I studied at a university in the former East Germany in the early 90s and met several former Russian teachers who had returned to University to retrain as teachers in different subjects because they had all lost their jobs. They went from mandatory Russian for everyone to zero Russian in most schools in a year. I imagine similar things happened in other places.

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  2. Measuring these things is always difficult. For instance during late Soviet and early post-Soviet times lots of Estonians claimed to not speak Russian for political reasons even if they knew it fluently. Later most younger ethnic Estonians in Estonia learning English instead of Russian as a second language. But, I suspect that a portion of the decrease is still people denying knowledge of the language for political reasons in areas formerly under Soviet domination.

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  3. “in a valuable, attractive culture”

    This argument makes most of the modern Middle East a valuable, attractive culture…. and I’m not seeing it.

    I agree with J Otto, previously the number of speakers was probably over-estimated and now the number is under-estimated.

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    • “This argument makes most of the modern Middle East a valuable, attractive culture…. and I’m not seeing it.”

      This was more than true back in the Middle Ages when Arabic-speaking Muslims restored its entire cultural legacy to Europe and helped the Western Civilization to continue existing.As a result, they ensured their crucial importance to the development of world civilizations. Like the Romans who are long gone, yet my diplomas are still written in their language and every doctor in the world learns their vocabulary.

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  4. \ Languages that don’t find an expression in a valuable, attractive culture fade away.

    Ukrainian nationalists will support your interpretation since it flatters their sensibilities.

    However, the real reason lies in Russian empire crumbling, regardless of cultural attractiveness or its lack.

    If you want the world to know your language, having (former) colonies and being a current superpower is the way to go. See: Britain and its former colony with English unsurprisingly being the latter’s official language.

    Sweden can have a super attractive culture, yet nobody cares or will care about their language.

    \ This argument makes most of the modern Middle East a valuable, attractive culture…. and I’m not seeing it.

    It is a bad example since nobody knows Arabic except Arabs themselves. (Israeli Jews do not know it either.)

    Also, after immigration, any language – Russian, Arabic or Hebrew – is forgotten after two-three generations at most.

    \ I agree with J Otto, previously the number of speakers was probably over-estimated and now the number is under-estimated.

    +1

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    • Actually a lot of non-Arabs can speak Arabic including Israeli Jews from places like Morocco, Yemen, and Iraq. The number of Kurds that speak Arabic is less today than before 1991, but is still considerable especially for those from Rojava (Syria).

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    • “Ukrainian nationalists will support your interpretation since it flatters their sensibilities.”

      No, they won’t because the Ukrainian language is not flourishing, to put it mildly.

      “Sweden can have a super attractive culture, yet nobody cares or will care about their language.”

      But it doesn’t. Even Swedes themselves hate it and have a massive suicide rate.

      “Also, after immigration, any language – Russian, Arabic or Hebrew – is forgotten after two-three generations at most.”

      Except Ukrainian, weird as it is. But it’s true; 4th generation immigrant Ukrainians speak flawless, fluent Ukrainian.

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