We are pleased to announce the successful outcome of Polina Kliuchnikova’s viva for her PhD thesis, ‘Linguistic biographies and communities of language of Russian speakers in Great Britain’.
In migration language undergoes crucial changes. Not only are the linguistic practices of migrants reshaped in the new environment, but migrant displacement has a major effect on the way language users see and talk about language as such, especially in relation to linguistic varieties they encounter or acquire as part of their migrant experiences. Migrants’ transforming attitudes to language also interfere with other, non-linguistic areas of their lives – family relationships, career pathways, networking with fellow migrants, daily interactions with the host environment. The way a layperson considers ‘their’ language in relation to the language of ‘others’ plays a crucial role in their identity construction – both as a factor and a domain for its expression. The sociolinguistic context of a host culture is a defining factor in the transformation of one’s metalinguistic thinking.
This thesis focuses on post-Soviet Russian-speaking migrants in the UK and explores their linguistic practices, language attitudes and discourses on language(s) as a key factor in their cultural integration in the host society. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork (in-depth semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and the discourse analysis of printed and online documents) conducted between 2011 and 2014, principally in the North-East of England. The central argument of the thesis is that the cultural phenomenon of ‘Russophonism’ (russkoiazychie) presents a dynamic model which functions in two ways. Firstly, it is a frame to express shared meanings of belonging to the post-Soviet domain, through which individual linguistic identities and community practices are expressed. It also influences migrants’ on-going relationship with and views of their home countries and the FSU context in general. Secondly, their understanding of Russophonism is a flexible tool to interpret current migrant experiences and to create new meanings of what being a migrant in the UK implies both for their personal life trajectories and for their self-presentation as a group.