Linguistic situation

Sociolinguistic survey makes it possible to get a real knowledge about the language situation in each village where our expeditions work. The language situation is characterized by a number of languages spoken in each village, the amount of people speaking this or that language, their age, the degree of language proficiency, suitable situations for using the language and frequency of use of each language in different situations. The vitality of a language is determined by intergenerational transmission of the language in the family. If the natural intergenerational transmission is broken , it is an evidence of the language shift when members of an ethno-local group little by little transfer from their ethnic language to a more prestigious one (very often it is an official language of the state).

Up to now we have surveyed 43 villages with Selkup, Ket, Evenki, Enets, Nenets, Dolgans, Khants residents.

The main informational source for sociolinguistic survey is selective questioning of villagers. In big villages questioning is mainly carried out inside target ethno-local groups. We tried to question representatives of different generations in order to collect information about all the families residing there. During conversations with respondents a researcher fills in questionnaires. Another source of sociolinguistic information is interviewing residents. The subjective information given by respondents was supplemented by the objective information concerning the level of ethnic language knowledge among representatives of different generations which had been collected in the course of linguistic survey. Considering all these data we formed an adequate conception of the linguistic situation in a village. In local Departments of Education we got information about teaching ethnic languages at schools and nursery schools and later verified it directly in villages.

All the Selkup, Ket and Evenki local communities of the surveyed villages were at least bilingual: nowadays almost everybody regardless of ethnicity, native language or age speaks Russian.

Russian dominates in communicative spheres including every day family communication even in those villages where the autochthonous population is in the majority. It does not depend at all on the ethnicity of the residents and very little on their age. Intergenerational transmission of the native language is preserved only in two Selkup (Rattta, Pur Tolka) villages and one Evenki (Sovetskaya Rechka) village. However, families where children speak ethnic language are an exception to the rule and the use of ethnic languages is reduced from generation to generation. In other words, the process of gradual shifting to Russian takes place in all the Selkup, Ket and Evenki local communities.

Only in five surveyed Selkup villages and one Evenki village we could find children who were able to speak their ethnic language.

Nevertheless, the more villages we survey the more details of great language mosaic in Central Siberia we get. Besides some common features, the situation in almost every village has its own specific character which should be taken into consideration when we give a proper appreciation of the present day situation and perspectives of future life of the autochthonous languages in this region. The map.