Attitudes toward language carry import beyond what they tell us about dominant trends in a particular country's national linguistics. Whether they appear in the public press or more narrow trade journals, in philosophical discussions or classroom lesson plans, discourses on language quite often reflect concerns that go well beyond the realm of linguistics, however broadly defined. The study of “language ideologies” or “linguistic ideologies” attempts to capture this metalinguistic dimension by taking as a starting premise that implicit in our attitudes about language are basic assumptions about power and authority – about who has the ability to shape the language and ultimately ideas and realities of a society and whether or not that is even possible in the first place. Linguistic ideologies further illuminate the manner in which individuals, societies, and nations understand and talk about language: their attitudes toward appropriate forms it should take, about its function in society, and about its relationship to the speaking and writing public. Looking at language ideologies allows for the examination of “the ways in which beliefs about languages and habitual engagement in particular linguistic practices create or buttress the legitimacy of specific political arrangements” (Gal and Woolard 1995, pp. 130–132).
If on some level we recognize this ability of language to serve as a symbolic forum for broader discussions, for example, of statehood, citizenship, and the role of the individual citizen speakers and writers in articulating the central ideas of the state, then an examination of certain keywords of Soviet-era linguistics should provide insight into attitudes not only about language, but also about its role in shaping citizens, society, and the state.
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