DOI: 10.18413/2313-8912-2022-8-2-0-4

Language economy and multilingualism: the case of Tatarstan

This interdisciplinary article is written at the intersection of ethnography of language policy and language economy – a science, underestimated both by (socio)linguists and economists. It aims to identify whether the competence in a minority language affects people's income taking the example of one of the regions of the Russian Federation – the Republic of Tatarstan. The data were collected in October 2021 through a sociolinguistic survey, interviewing, and ethnographic observation. The empirical analysis revealed the absence of a positive correlation between the income of the majority of respondents and their knowledge of the Tatar language. At the same time, for a third of the respondents such knowledge brings both direct and indirect benefits, from establishing business and personal contacts with the Turkic-speaking world to employment opportunities and part-time jobs in the areas where knowledge of Tatar is necessary. The negative relationship between the Tatar language proficiency and income is primarily due to the state language policy and legislation of the country aimed at promoting the Russian language. Overall, the study concludes that the economic value of minority languages remains low and that there are different types of arguments for language choice. The choice of a minority language is motivated by the importance of language for culture and ethnic identity, while the choice of a dominant language is motivated by economic and pragmatic arguments (soft arguments vs. hard arguments). The importance of the monetary component in people’s language decisions allows to make a rather pessimistic forecast about the future of minority languages.

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