Discourses on Languages and Identities in Readers' Comments in Ukrainian Online News Media: An Ethnolinguistic Identity Theory Perspective

Roman Horbyk

Abstract


This study is a pioneering attempt to apply social and ethnolinguistic identity theories developed by social psychologists Henri Tajfel, Howard Giles, and Patricia Johnson, and Judith Butler’s critical feminist theory of hate speech, to Ukrainian realities. The material comprises nearly 3,000 readers’ comments concerning language issues posted to Ukraine’s leading news website Ukrains'ka pravda (Ukrainian Truth) in 2010-12, and is analyzed through a systematic discourse-historical approach within a critical discourse analysis. Notorious for intolerance, filthy language, and trolling on a mass scale, the comments reflected the language situation in Ukraine from 2010 to 2012, demonstrating linguistic optimism, linguistic alarmism, denial of bilingualism, and historicist, legalist, and laissez-fair discourses. The readers’ comments deny or affirm the authenticity of either the Russian or the Ukrainian language, propose the exclusion or inclusion of the Russophone population in Ukraine, or deny that there are identity differences. From the chosen theoretical perspective, this study testifies to an unequal power status of the language groups, to the cultural hegemony of Russophones and the challenge to this hegemony by Ukrainophones, to mutual othering, and to an abundance of hate speech. Arguably, the use of hate speech assisted in developing and cementing the identities of Ukrainians who connected strongly with either the Ukrainian or the Russian language.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21226/ewjus417

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© 2014 East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

ISSN 2292-7956