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Lithuanian language ideals

Lithuanian language: ideals, ideologies and identity shifts

Project description

The sociology theorists claim that contemporary societies are experiencing the period of the so-called liquid modernity: the power of authorities is weakening, while the grass-root ideologies are flourishing in public. This process is often called democratisation of society. Salient sociocultural changes condition changes of language ideologies. Alongside the standard language, which previously enjoyed the highest status in hierarchy of language varieties, other language varieties are becoming more valued; the content (linguistic features) of standard language itself is also changing. Regional dialects acquire more prestige; pop-culture begins to dominate in a part of the media and also ordinary language. However, there is not enough data on specific situation of individual European countries. This project thus questions the role language and ideologies in a society which has been going through a transition period from the “constructive” development of nation state to the age of “deconstructive” globalisation, or so called late modernity.

Aims and objectives

The research project aims to evaluate the development and the role of standard Lithuanian and standardisation ideology (language policy) in the times of late modernity - since the sixties until nowadays. The study focuses on the attitudes to language, the relationship between language and culture, language and social as well as ethnic identity and language in the broadcast media. It also attempts to locate and bring to light crucial shifts in the history of standard Lithuanian.

We also seek to develop an interdisciplinary approach to language standardization that is new for Lithuanian linguistics, i.e. to study language development and ideologies from the perspective of several disciplines – sociolinguistics, media and communication studies, cultural history, critical discourse, and ideological criticism.

Applied goal of the project is to provide theoretical and empirical data for the development of democratic language policy, to disseminate information about the functioning of Lithuanian and its role in contemporary society, and to provide scientific arguments for public discussions and decisions related to language normalisation.

The project is an independent participant of SLICE (Standard Language Ideology in Contemporary Europe), the informal European network of sociolinguists. The SLICE initiative has been taken by Denmark; it includes researchers from 12 countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States as a consultant member). The common core of the research is similar aims and methods. The network was initiated by prof. Tore Kristiansen from Research Foundation Centre for Language Change in Real Time (LANCHART) at the University of Copenhagen.

The main aim of the European collaboration network is to uncover the typology of the development paths of standard languages: do standard languages in individual speech communities evolve in the same direction or in several different directions under the same conditions of late modernity and globalisation?

Strands and Methods

The project covers both empirical studies of the current situation and historical research on the development of ideologies and language. The main target questions are the following:

  • What social values are attributed to the standard and other (geographical or social) varieties of Lithuanian? What is methodological and theoretical significance of the distinction between overt and covert attitudes?
  • What were the changes in the public use of language after ideological written texts on TV and radio had been replaced by uncensored, lively, polylogue speaking that reflects and constructs new identities of public actors and their audiences? What is the role of the media in the formation and dissemination of language ideologies and standards?
  • What national identity and authorities the standardisation of Lithuanian language was founded on when the modern nation has been formed on ethno-linguistic basis? How it has been transformed in Soviet times? What ideologies are required by today’s deconstructive and globalised society?

The project has four major strands: representative experimental research of language attitudes in schools in 9 regions of Lithuania, research of filmed focus group discussions in schools about language varieties, retrospective research of TV and radio language of the past five decades, and historical research of institutionalisation of Lithuanian language, institutional power and language standardization ideologies.


The project is led by the Department of Sociolinguistics in the Institute of the Lithuanian Language with participation of the researchers from Faculty of Philology, Faculty of History and Institute of Journalism in Vilnius University, and Vytautas Magnus University. Project leader - Loreta Vaicekauskienė.


The project is funded by a grant from the Research Council of Lithuania.