Socio- and Psycholinguistic Aspects of Minority Languages Evolution. The Polish Old Believers Case
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The author considers the community of his interest in the context of language and culture evolution. The Old Believers settled in Poland shortly after the schism (raskol) in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. They preserved their religion, culture and language, and simultaneously, through the ages, they absorbed the culture and language of Polish community, growing into a bilingual and bicultural community. However, the self-created equilibrium was upset. The period of the last 30 years with its urbanization, globalisation and system transformation did more to endanger the culture, language, identity and even existence of the Old Believers than the foregoing three centuries. My main intention is to describe the social and psychological factors which influenced the community of the Old Believers in Poland, and to find the prospects for their future, and also to compare their situation to a few similar, and different, minority societies and communities in Poland and other EU countries. Furthermore, I am trying to answer the questions whether the fate of endangered languages and dialects is already determined, and what are the solutions for the Old Believers. The comparison to other minorities shows some common processes affecting their cultural and language identity, which is related to bilingualism and diglossia, language socialisation and amalgamation with the dominant society. The processes and factors specific to the Old Believers are also pointed out. I have described the possible legal means and moves protecting endangered languages. I explain why the system transformation and joining the EU proved destructive for the Polish Old Believers and what is the ‘critical mass’ of accomplished cultural, social and demographical changes which make any improvement impossible.
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