Agency lost in the discourse of language endangerment: Nominalisation in discourse about South Estonian

Kadri Koreinik


This paper focuses on the representation of agency in the discourse of language endangerment. I consider strategies to (de)legitimate through the competing claims regarding lesser-spoken South Estonian varieties by language activists and their opponents, language professionals and others, from 2004−2005 and arguments used in the broader media debate on pro-Estonian language policy since the mid-1990s. My focus is on what processes are nominalised in the discourse of endangerment and what other schemes of hidden or backgrounded agency are employed. I will demonstrate within the broad framework of critical discourse analysis (CDA) that material processes, which represent language change, shift or loss, are deactivated and deagentialised leaving no space for agency. Discursive practices, which hide agency and thus under-represent the process-like nature of language, support the Estonian linguistic culture of monoglossia. Finally, the public discourse of endangerment is a public arena for claims of jurisdiction for Estonian language professionals.


critical discourse analysis; ideational metafiction; grammar; representation; language ideology; language policy; Estonian

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Copyright (c) 2012 Kadri Koreinik

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ISSN 1736-2563 (print)
ISSN 2228-0677 (online)
DOI 10.5128/ERYa.1736-2563