Mediated metadiscourse: print media on anglicisms in post-Soviet Russian
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This study examines attitudes towards anglicisms in Russian expressed in print media articles. Accelerated linguistic borrowing from English, a particularly visible aspect of the momentous language changes after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, has engendered a range of reactions. Print media articles spanning two decades and several central outlets are analysed to show how arguments for or against use of anglicisms are constructed, what language ideologies these arguments serve, and whether mediated language attitudes changed during the post-Soviet era. A summary of the history of Russian linguistic borrowing and language attitudes from the Middle Ages to the present day shows that periods of national consolidation provoked demands for the restriction of borrowing. Then, a survey of theories on language ideologies demonstrates that they function through the construction of commonsense argumentation in metadiscourse (talk about talk). This argumentation draws on accepted common knowledge in the Russian linguistic culture. Using critical discourse analytic tools, namely analysis of metaphor scenarios and of argumentation, I examine argumentative strategies in the mediated language debates. Particularly, the critical analysis reveals what strategies render dominant standpoints on anglicisms self-evident and logical to the audience. The results show that the media reaction to anglicisms dramatises language change in discourses of threat, justified by assumed commonsense rational knowledge. Whilst there are few reactions in the 1990s, debates on language intensified in the 2000s after Putin’s policies of state reinforcement came into effect, peaking around times of official language policy measures. Anglicisms and their users are subordinated, cast out as the Other, not belonging to the in-group of sensible speakers. This threat is defused via ridicule and claiming of the moral high ground. This commonsense argumentation ultimately supports notions of Russian as a static, sacred component of Russian nation building, and of speakers as passive. Close textual analysis shows that even articles claiming to support language change and the use of anglicisms use argumentation strategies of negativisation. Overall, a consensus on the character and role of the Russian language exists between all perspectives, emphasising the importance of rules and assigning speakers a passive role throughout.