Sociolinguistics and Mansi Language Choice

At the Uralic languages and multilingualism conference to be held in Hamburg this June, one of the scheduled talks is titled “Sociolinguistic factors determining language choice among bilingual Mansi children.”

According to the abstract, author Csilla Horváth will be discussing sociolinguistic factors in determining whether Mansi children use Mansi or Russian, and those factors are neither a lack of Mansi speakers nor low prestige of Mansi. Instead, the factors include proficiency, relatives’ sociolinguistic background, and size of the hometown. (Prestige is cited as a factor in the sociolinguistic status of the community.)

Formerly known as the Voguls, the Mansi are a people living in Khantia-Mansia, an autonomous region within Russia to the north of Kazakhstan. According to the Ethnologue, the Mansi population is about 11,500 people, with about 2750 speakers of Mansi (mns). Out of four mutually unintelligible dialects, Mansi has lost two, leaving the North and East dialects still spoken.

Part of the Ob-Ugric subfamily of the Finno-Ugric language family, Mansi is related to Hungarian, as demonstrated on the Wikipedia page. The Wiki article also shows that nouns have singular, dual and plural forms.

The Mansi share Khantia-Mansia with the Khanty, a people who speak a related language known as Khanty (kca), which has a much larger population, but still not so large at about 13,500 speakers.

The Uralic languages and multilingualism conference is being held at the University of Hamburg by the Department of Uralic Studies on June 2 and 3, 2011.

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