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Fresh Approaches to the Study of Ukraine's Multilingualism

1917 Central Rada Note

When the Ukrainian People’s Republic arose out of the rubble of the Russian Empire one hundred years ago, notes of its currency displayed text in four languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish.

Today Ukraine’s constitution enshrines Ukrainian – which was repeatedly subjected to tsarist bans in the nineteenth century – as the state language. It also guarantees the ‘free development, use and protection’ of Russian as well as the languages of other national minorities. In the twenty-first century, these languages live alongside each other, on top of each other and, in the Ukrainian-Russian patois known as surzhyk, even inside each other.

The fascinating complexity of Ukraine’s linguistic landscape is a subject of study in the new landmark AHRC-funded project Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS), which is led by Professor Wendy Bennett of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages. Its dynamic public outreach programme continues on Friday, 24 March 2017 with an interdisciplinary workshop on language politics and language communities in the Ukrainian – and Catalan – contexts. All are welcome.

The event is a rare opportunity for collaboration between Hispanic and Slavonic Studies. Alongside three scholars of Catalan language and culture, it features Dr Uilleam Blacker (University College London), who will give a presentation entitled 'Minor, Minority and Multiple: Challenges and Opportunities of Reading Ukraine's Complex Literary Heritage’; Professor Michael Moser (University of Vienna), who will speak on ‘Ukrainian: A State Language in Need of Support’; and Dr Tanya Zaharchenko (University of Oslo), who will discuss 'Language and the Nation: Formulas of Betrayal’.

‘Ukraine is a multilingual country ultimately united, not divided, by languages’, notes Dr Rory Finnin, Director of the Cambridge Ukrainian Studies programme and Co-Investigator of the MEITS project. ‘We are very excited to host a novel array of scholars committed to exploring fresh, unconventional approaches to the study of language use in Ukraine and other multilingual societies.’

The workshop ‘Multilingual (Con)figurations: Catalan and Ukrainian in Dialogue’ takes place at King’s College on 24 March 2017 from 9:30 – 14:00. The event is free and open to the public. Download the programme here.

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