Face to face with Kadri Koreinik
What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/ multilingualism?
I have studied sociology in Tartu and in Central European University. Resulting from my major in economic sociology, from time to time I join some interesting projects on local governance or employment issues, and of course, keep lecturing economic sociology in the University of Tartu. However, I have grown up in the region where people have been speaking so differently from common Estonian (or as they have thought from the Standard Estonian) and switch codes sometimes. Given that all my roots are in Võrumaa in South Estonia and my granny and mother never consciously used the local tongue (not to use language/dialect) – võro kiil – when talking to me, it was expected that sooner or later I start to question the motives behind their behaviour, i.e. not speaking. In 1997 my collaboration with the state R&D institution, Võro Institute, founded two years before, started. Since then I have been trying to explain how language attitudes and behaviour are influenced by different factors, incl. (language) ideologies.
I find working with and among philologists exciting and enriching. Language is one of the most inspiring human phenomena to study.I do not consider myself a language activist, because I feel that having only the passive language skills, I will stay marginal to the speech community for the rest of my days. Nevertheless, marginality gives me a rather good position to study
speech community and the activities of language activists as well. On the other hand, I would like speakers to have that critical language awareness, Fairclough had in mind, and keep on questioning the hegemonic processes of language standardization and challenging existing hegemonies.
What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?
First of all I do not feel comfortable with the role of expert. It is obvious that one is never able to know all aspects of reality as much as he/she would like to. Just a couple of days ago I happened to witness the conversation about how ugly is our neighbouring local variety of Latvian (likely Latgalian with Balto-Finnic substratum) and how beautiful was dialogue in Latvian “Baiga vasara” movie when actors used the “pure” Latvian. The conversation was run by Estonian speakers who think of themselves as speaking the standard. Professionally it is rather intriguing to find ways of explanation how discourse, language ideologies influence the actual behaviour and decisions made in LPP. However, it is an enormous task to contribute at least something to the development of language studies and perhaps, in the long run, to linguistic diversity in general. My colleagues and me have seen mostly the ignorance of local authorities to language maintenance so far, only lately few local actors – mostly small businessmen, tourist farmers have paradoxically discovered some unique selling propositions in local language. Unfortunately, the number of those people who care about their language grows slower than natural loss is proceeding (older generations disappearing). Finally, the objectification of language has its effect on our activities as well and it is another major challenge for all of us.
What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?
I keep working on my thesis to earn the doctorate. As the university requirements are connected with writing articles to the peer reviewed periodicals in English, I encounter the difficulties of thinking and writing in foreign language. So I am not happy at all with the imperialism English has in academic writing. To put it mores seriously, right now I am working on an article where I explore the issues of (de) legitimating a language using the case of Southern Estonian. We have also discussed the need to study language shift and the generation of 40 year old, who according to my colleague, the toponym researcher Evar Saar, will be the last generation of future grandparents who might decide to transfer their skills to the third generation. It would be important to study the expectations, definitions and skills of the last Võro-speaking generation.
Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?
Please visit the homepage of Võro Institute to find the Estonian-Võro dictionary. There one may also find some summary articles about the Võro Movement and projects we have had so far. One may find a link to a funny Jäno-Juss ‘Johnny-the-Bunny’ cartoon from our webpage. I also recommend scanning our recent article about naming practices where we have combined mapping with self-reporting. Koreinik, Kadri, Pajusalu, Karl "Language naming practices and linguistic identity in South-Eastern Estonia". – Rogier Blokland / Cornelius Hasselblatt (eds.): Language and Identity in the Finno-Ugric World. Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium at the University of Groningen, May 17-19, 2006. Maastricht: Shaker 2007. (Studia Fenno-Ugrica Groningana 4). Website Shaker The books on my desk with yellow stickers between pages are not the latest: “Regimes of Language” edited by Paul V. Kroskrity, “An introduction to Language Policy” edited by Thomas Ricento, and Michael Billig’s “Banal Nationalism”. I would like to suggest all three to those who have not found them yet. And last but not least, ask the Mercator Research center for the new Võro-Dossier to find about the other musts concerning Southern Estonian and Võro .
Area of focus:
Kadri is a featured expert on language studies, especially on different methods to study linguistic phenomena and researcher of the Võro language, a minority language in Estonia.
Do you have a question on these topics? Ask Kadri!
Our focus this month is Võro as minority language in Estonia.
Regional dossier Võro in Estonia (published in October 2007)
Võro Instituut, Võro
Estonian Bureau of Lesser Used Languages, Tallinn