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About zarkalizhanova

MA Candidate, NUGSE

Code-switching as a strategy for a social cohesion in Kazakhstan (data interpretation)

Kazakhstani society has been featured by the dominance of linguistic purism at least on an official level (Fierman, 2006). Monoglossic ideology also retained during independence with Kazakh language promoting policy and such linguistic practices as code-switching, that is, the use of both languages in the same sentence was academically and politically despised (Muysken, 1995). Although, as it was mentioned above, code-switching was an unfavorable phenomenon especially on official levels, it turned to be widely practiced among both russified and Kazakh-speaking population. Code-switching along with code-mixing became an indispensable part of linguistic practices of bilinguals, that was considered as a “colloquial language use” (Muhamedowa, 2009). The practice of mixing languages in some cases became a means of claiming identity or the demonstration of belonging to a certain community, for example, international school students’ use of code-switching in their daily conversation (Akynova, Zharkynbekova, Agmanova, Aimoldina, & Dalbergenova, 2014). The following data interpretation is based on about two-minute long video clip called “Мен казакпын” (“I’m Kazakh”)  made by Ivanov, a Kazakhstani blogger of Russian origin, who uses code-switching attributed to his Kazakh affinity. The author is known for creating his comic videos about social life in Kazakhstan, which sometimes reflect main issues in a society and satires on such detrimental phenomena as corruption, high-rolling habits, the low responsibility of government bodies.

YouTube blogger Fim Ivanov published his video clip of a song “Men kazakpyn” right before the celebration of Peoples of Kazakhstan Unity Day, which he remarked at the description box. Meaning of the word “peoples” here attributes to “nations”, which symbolically reminds us that the 1st of May is the day of celebration of other nationalities of Kazakhstan, indicates this video as his tribute to the solidarity and peace among other ethnicities of Kazakhstan.

Use of intersentential code-switching in the first line of the song “Я казах”, “Meн казакпын” (“I’m Kazakh”, first sentence in Russian, second in Kazakh); “Весит кредит”, “Мен Туркияга кеттим” (I have a credit (Russian), I’m going to Turkey (Kazakh) and intrasentential in such utterances as “Казахша сойле, а то,” (“Speak Kazakh (KZ), otherwise” (RUS), “Дома сижу, мен шай ишемин” (“Sitting at home (RUS), having a tea (KZ)”, etc. illustrate that author wanted to become appropriate to Kazakhs’ lifestyle and demonstrated it through adding Kazakh phrases or words to his Russian text, or changing his name “Fima” to more Kazakh styled “Fimeke”. But then, the presence of grammatical mistakes in phrases and a lack of Kazakh typical letters, that were substituted with Russian alternative letters in words like “ишемин” (“drinking”) instead of Kazakh letter “і”, or “казахпынгой” instead of “қазақпын ғой”, where several letters have been kept in Russian, and grammatically were incorrect: two separate words were connected. At the first sight, those mistakes and Ivanov’s poor Kazakh pronunciation may seem to be the result of low language competence of the blogger, but his description near the title reveals another point:

“For those who do not understand why there are errors in the text. This is done deliberately, as many Kazakhs do not know their language. And when those people start talking it, they are immediately humiliated. When you speak abroad, in bad English, you will simply be corrected or kept quiet. Do not necessarily discourage people from speaking the Kazakh language, everyone will learn it in the future. Peace for everyone!”

This message explicitly conveys the author’s attitude towards the state language, his belief that it will be acquired by majorities. He draws public’s attention to Kazakh-speaking part of the population, so-called “nagyz” (“true”) Kazakhs opposed to those who do not or hardly ever speaks Kazakh – “shala” (“half”) Kazakhs. The first one tends to react aggressively to the latter who are not fluent in Kazakh, even in those cases when “shala-Kazakhs” are learning it, but struggle with speaking. Hence, the author calls “nagyz” Kazakhs for understanding and compassion to Kazakh learners, not endless shameful blaming. Moreover, author through the use code-switching implicitly shows how language can be learned with the help of the first language and “one nation-one language ideology” not always works effectively (Woolard, & Schieffelin, 1994).

Another distinctive feature of a song is its ambiguity, presence crossing or possible absence of it. Crossing is a form of code-switching that is executed by a performer who tries through that to become closer to the imitated language or language community (Rampton, 1998). However, Ivanov tries to imitate Kazakhs through depicting their lifestyle in a stigmatized manner: he collects and names well-known sometimes infamous facts from everyday lives of Kazakhs, such as endless tea parties with excessive consumption of it, a habit of coming late to weddings, a necessity of having friendship with influential individual and impractical high-rolling of money even at the expense of low family budget. The audience in the comments section has been divided into two different groups: those who support the author and claim his crossing in lyrics have positivity, and others, who asserted Ivanov was mocking at Kazakhs and was focused only on flaws based on stereotypes. Personally, I could not find any offense in the video content and in the song, except the use of features of stereotypes about Kazakh culture, which I am sure were used for humoristic effect.

To conclude, the author demonstrates how through code-switching a universal language may be shaped for both nagyz-Kazakhs and shala-Kazakhs, bilinguals and thus, viable in conversation. Following his claim on keeping tolerance, understanding and positive attitude towards those who learn the Kazakh language for more than longtime Kazakhstani society will witness gradual full acquisition of a state language and will not kill Russophones’ desire to learn it.

His video encourages interethnic solidarity and harmony in Kazakhstani society who barely speak state language, but could use code-switching for communication. Also, it develops patriotism among Kazakhstanis, when they see a young non-Kazakh man performing in a popular among young people trap style and claiming his Kazakh national identity through his own language.

References:
Akynova, D., Zharkynbekova, S., Agmanova, A., Aimoldina, A., & Dalbergenova, L. (2014). Language choice among the youth of Kazakhstan: English as a self-representation of prestige. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 143, 228-232.

Fierman, W. (2006). Language and education in post-Soviet Kazakhstan: Kazakh-medium instruction in urban schools. Russian Review, 65(1), 98–116. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9434.2005.00388.x

Matuszkiewicz, R. (2010). The language issue in Kazakhstan-institutionalizing new ethnic relations after Independence. Economic and Environmental Studies, 10(2), 211-227. Retrieved from http://www.ees.uni.opole.pl/content/02_10/ees_10_2_fulltext_03.pdf

Muhamedowa, R. (2009). The use of Russian conjunctions in the speech of bilingual Kazakhs. International Journal of Bilingualism, 13(3), 331-356.

Muysken, P. (1995). Code-switching and grammatical theory. In L. Milroy, & P. Muysken. One speaker, two languages: cross-disciplinary perspectives on code-switching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rampton, B. (1998). Language crossing and the redefinition of reality. Code-switching in conversation: Language, interaction and identity, 290-317.

Woolard, K. A., & Schieffelin, B. B. (1994). Language Ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 23(1), 55–82. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.23.100194.000415

 

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“Txtng is killing language. JK!!!” by John McWhorter (deconstruction #2)

Texting is tended to be perceived something that impacts negatively a literacy, especially in terms of writing abilities. Unsurprisingly, a linguist McWhorter’s presentation of its beneficial features and his view of texting as a new linguistic and cultural phenomenon and even calling it “miraculous” seemed to be more than challenging.

He starts his talk with the origin of writing within language existence which emerged considerably later than a speech, thus pointing writing’s secondary role in an entire linguistic evolution. As for me, this fact does not lessen the significance of writing in language and culture development. More than that, much of literary and cultural heritage could reach us through manuscripts written by particularly those who were familiar with a writing literacy. Further, he highlights the language basics by opposing its written and oral forms and literally infers language as a speech, not a written form. McWhorter’s attempts at providing evidence through the depiction of the historical development of language from speech to writing was not convincing as it looked more like a general claim.

It is exactly a speech, in his opinion, through a hand, mechanical equipment and then technical devices was transmitted to our days, which led to an emergence of texting. And since people do not keep in mind punctuation and grammar rules while talking, there is no necessity of their mentioning them in texting as well (“You do not think about these things when you talk, no. So why would you when you are texting?”). Then immediately comes a question to what extent texting is beneficial for cultural and linguistic development, and on the contrary, wouldn’t it lead to a linguistic regress? Or even to obsolesce of writing skills overall?

Although presenter mentions concerning questions above, giving examples of a new language structured in texting, referring to it as “an emerging complexity” – still there appear more questions than answers. Two only given examples during the presentation of “an emerging complexity”- analysis of “LOL” and use of a slang “Slash”, their acquisition of a new meaning in the context of online texting – somehow do not disclose and explain the “complexity” of them. How can acronyms and slangs even with a new meaning be referred to the “complexity” and how would they affect the intelligibility of texts?

However, the speaker addresses numerous questions on grammatical accuracy and sophistication in writing with a series of instances of grammarians’ concerns throughout the history and did in the most humoristic and agreeable manner. Samples of scholars’ worries and dissatisfaction with students’ low writing performance and ignorance were displayed from 1956 to 63 A.D., thus he showcased the process of concerns on writing literacy as endless. In addition, the latest example of a Latin teacher worried of Latin literacy in 63 A.D. whose only trouble, by Mr. McWhorter, was scholar’s unawareness of French language establishment from Latin at that time, could give food for thoughts on that possibly a new globalized language might be established through the texting. Also, by demonstrating excerpts of scholars’ passages of worries linguist wanted to persuade audience on how those worries for language purity and literacy become vain, and his statement “people worrying about these things, but planet keeps spinning somehow” adds humoristic and skeptic view to that point.

Another convincing argument of the speaker is the importance of texting in a bilingual and bi-dialectical cognitive development when young people use knowledge of both forms (formal writing and texting) of a language, that adds a scientific value to the presentation.

John McWhorter presented an optimistic and full of scientific curiosity view on texting. His personal charm with a sense of humor, the ability of collaboration with the audience and confident speech could be advantageous in his successful presentation of the topic. However, a lack of exact linguistic examples or at least small research results contributed to the weakness of arguments and unconvincing presentation overall. Throughout the talk, he did not provide any evidence why he called texting “a miraculous language” as well.

Ways of Unblocking a “Writing Block”

Remember those torturing periods when you cannot start writing an assignment, feeling embarrassed, hesitated and STUCK?! Sounds familiar? There was a post about procrastination and ways of battling it, but we should face another “academic demon” that wraps our effort in the start of doing assignments, and i.e. “writing block”. Its Russian equivalent sounds like “creativity crisis”, which precisely depicts the state of a student (or writer) as an inability to start or continue his writing work. Even if this phenomenon seems barely defeatable, any attempt is a chance to push it away. At least, there won’t be a solution without any effort.
Notably, it’s crucial to identify a reason for your writing block. They may be several at once: fear, perfectionism, devoid of ideas or loss of focus. When you are aware of a source of your writing block, there are more possible chances to find a solution for struggling with it.
Let me share my tips on how to overcome a writing block and end up with productive paperwork.

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Photo credit: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/likefire/sven-birkerts-on-writers-block

First, take a break and focus on any physical activity. Sounds trite, but it works! Your mind needs a short-term getaway from a continuous overwork. My father always insisted on a systematic shuffle of mental activity with physical work and I do cleaning a house, gardening systematically along with doing my paperwork.

The second recommendation sounds similar to a previous one, although it is about looking for inspiration. Try to change your focus from your assignment because too much concentration causes a deficiency of diverse ideas or vice versa overload of ideas that enable mess in your mind. It is quite useful to draw your attention to those everyday activities, which you like doing on a regular basis, e.g. surfing social networks, watching favorite TV shows, reading a newspaper or visiting galleries (but do not be stuck there too!). There is also a chance of emergence of an answer for your questions from assignment or ideas for your writing work.

Photo credit: http://cuddlesandrage.com/2014/writers-block/

Finally, become an illiterate, grammarian-free writer… for a while. The process of correcting mistakes through continuous editing your paragraphs and concentration on your stylistic errors results in a waste of much time. Ideas and your thoughts matter more than stylistically polished structures, so it is beneficial to start put your raw ideas first with a later proof check of your writing paper.

Hope, my tips on how to get over writing block will be useful for someone who deals with it. What are your suggestions and experiences in overcoming writing block?

‘The Value of Education’ for Girls by Aiganym Sadykova (deconstruction)

Have you ever thought what role did your school education play in your life? And to what extent did it influence your worldview? Now pretend you have no access to any school throughout your life due to numerous reasons: parents do not give a permission (sounds silly, but on the other side of this planet some people, particularly, girls do face this problem), financial crash in the country, natural disaster, isolated location, etc. or even worse, schools are prohibited in your region (!). There is a chance you will be surrounded only by family in the grip of traditions and customs with a strict order to follow them. Pretty hard, isn’t it? I couldn’t even imagine that such scenario is quite possible even with the existence of the educational system, accomplished schools in a country with a prosperous economy nowadays. However, young speaker Aiganym shares her view about the existence of feminist discrimination in the country in a video below from a perspective of a schoolchild.

As a student of an Almaty international school she discovers that girls even with an opportunity to have an education are constantly imposed to a number of such social cliché as beauty standards, maternity at the cost of academic advancement, so forth, promoted actively by adverts, mass media. She supports that argument with a personal example from her own life by showing photographs during her teens when she was obsessed with the idea to lose weight to be suitable for beauty requirements. As a result, happiness wasn’t at the end of that story as well as a satisfaction. Likewise, many women encounter difficulties in seeking satisfaction because of being stigmatized and lack of discoveries and beloved activities in their lives. In other cases, ladies cannot even identify a source of their depression.

Also, the speaker gives a name to the problem that causes women’s unfavorable position in Kazakhstani society. It is a mentality. She calls for a change in a view of education not as a period in early school life, or a place for showing off someone’s virtues, but as an opportunity to gain a knowledge and think critically. She contends critical thinking is just the ticket that will allow changing a mindset directed to the development of human capital as a whole.

As for me, I totally support the stance Ayganym keeps. Women should not lose their intellectual potential because of stigmas on the roles of females in the society. It is crucial to appreciate what society can give us, make many efforts and keep being inquisitive for the betterment of our life.

 

Peculiar view on the “mother tongue” in Kazakhstan

On the 21st day of next month world celebrates “Mother Language Day“. In the light of the intensive development of multilingualism around the country, the significance of the first language (L1) is special

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few days ago during the classesone professor willing to identify language backgrounds of our cohort asked students to specify their first languageThe question that seemed to be obvious and easy to answer in the beginning became disputable at the end of an interrogationSurprisingly, the certain number of students were unable to determine their actual mother tongue or pointed out their first language from the perspective of their ethnicitiesThe point was thateven in case of extremely rare use of Kazakh language during their lifetime students were convinced that a native language should be identified on the basis of their national identitywhich literally contradicted the ordinary views on definition of a mother tongue and consequently left our professor perplexed on this matter at the end of classes.

To clarify, let’s revisit the definition of “the first language”; for instance, in Collins and Cambridge dictionaries it is referred to as a native language that has been learned first from a birth before studying a new language. Notably, there is no reference to a connection of national origin of an individual with his or her first exposed language. Then what makes our students call a language, in this case, Kazakh, which was hardly ever used and spoken in their families and during school and university life as their first language or mother tongue? The answer may be in the consideration of the value that Kazakhs attach to a meaning of the word “mother tongue” in Kazakh (“ana tili”), which is treated as a reflection of Kazakh nation’s identity, culture and historical heritage. Plenty of Kazakh prominent poets realized the significance of Kazakh language in nation’s identity and dedicated poems to the mother tongue full of patriotic love and pride. The history of the beginning of Kazakhstan’s formation as a republic, to my mind, is another important factor that affected the Kazakhstani people perception of the mother tongue. Specifically, in the 20s due to korenizatsiya (indigenization) policy, each of fifteen Soviet republics was designated as an autonomous republic with its titular language (Pavlenko, 2008). Hence, in spite of Russian being a lingua franca in Kazakh republic and the majority of the Russian-speaking population, the attainment of Kazakh language a titular status led to shaping a view of Kazakh language as part of gaining a national identity. Since then, word “mother tongue” in Kazakhstan implies a meaning of the language of own ethnicity and national origin. Years-long Kazakh language revival policy only reinforced acquired that conception. Here is an article of an Australian blogger Mabel Kwong, who shares a similar opinion on the concept of the mother tongue, but also she indicates its difference between “first language” from a perspective of an emergent bilingual.

For me “mother tongue” is a language in which my ideas and thoughts are formulated and through which I express my emotions explicitly. Thus, the idea of seeing a mother tongue as a part of nationality is obviously not something that I could agree with. What are your opinions on Kazakhs’ view on “mother tongue” conception?

Reference:

Pavlenko, A. (2008). Multilingualism in Post-Soviet Countries: Language Revival, Language Removal, and Sociolinguistic Theory. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 11(3–4), 275–314. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050802271517