Language formed the ideological foundation of many national movements in Central and Eastern Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The decision on whether a people spoke a language or a dialect was not based on arguments about linguistic proximity or distance, but rather on political definitions of who constituted the ethno-linguistic nation. This led to languages being combined or split in accordance with nation-building projects. Often overlooked is the impact of this politicisation of language on sub-national and regional dialects, which are today not accorded the status languages. This paper focuses on the case study of Latgalian, which is used as a means of everyday communication by 150,000-200,000 people in eastern Latvia. It is officially classified as a ‘historical variety’ and ‘dialect’ of Latvian, but linguists have made the case for it being a separate language. The debate over the distance and proximity of languages/dialects is especially pronounced in this ‘peripheral’ (from the perspective of Riga) and highly multi-ethnic region that borders Belarus, Lithuania, and Russia.
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Latgalia, Latvian language, Latvia, Central & Eastern Europe, ethno-linguistic nationalism
How to Cite
Gibson, C., (2015) “Language or Dialect?: The Politicisation of Language in Central and Eastern Europe”, Tropos 2(1).