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Vilnius speech

Features of other languages in the speech of Vilnius youth

Not once have we heard remarks that Lithuanian teenagers often insert Russian, English or resources from other languages in their speech. There has been relatively little research on this subject in Lithuania, however. In this project researchers cooperated with school students in order to compile Vilnius Adolescents’ Language Corpus (VALC) on the basis of which  a quantitative analysis of Vilnius adolescents’ use of Russian and English resources has been carried out.

For a more varied speech of Vilnius youth to be represented, recordings were collected in Vilnius schools according to their position in the ranking of secondary schools (“good” or “average”) and the neighbourhood the school is located in (ethically unmarked (EthUn) or ethnically marked (EthM)). All the schools have Lithuanian as the language of instruction.

The informants were school students of four grades (5, 6, 7 and 8th) representing two major age groups (10–13 and 14–16 yrs). Having received the digital voice recorder, the informants had one week to record spontaneous conversations with their friends, after which they were asked to fill in the form about the situation, location, topic of the conversation and its participants.

Vilnius Adolescents’ Language Corpus is the first large collection documenting 35 hours’ spontaneous speech of almost 200 Vilnius adolescents.

The research has shown that Vilnius adolescents’ linguistically diverse practices are far from a mere mixture of resources. Instead, adolescents have different norms for using Russian and English resources.

Adolescents in EthM neighbourhoods appear to use more Russian resources, in comparison to adolescents from EthUn neighbourhoods, hence, availability correlates with usage. The lexico-functional categories of Russian resources among adolescents (EthM) are manifold, i.e. slang, swearing, code-switching and quotations. Russian resources in the language of adolescents from EthUn neighbourhoods are limited to slang and swearing. Boys (EthUn) use Russian resources twice more frequently than girls, hence, it is likely that Russian slang and swearwords serve as markers of toughness and masculinity.

English resources are available to adolescents irrespective of the ethnic marking of the neighbourhood through computer-mediated communication, popular culture. Hence, their frequency and lexico-functional categories are similarly distributed in Vilnius adolescents’ linguistic practices. It appeared that English resources are often situation, topic specific, employed for mutual entertainment and fun.