Date of Award

8-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

David I. Hanauer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Aneta Pavlenko, Ph.D.

Abstract

The immigrants to the United States from the countries, former republics of the Soviet Union, represent a unique amalgam of ethnicities, religions, cultures, and languages. However, despite their differences, often amplified by the stereotypes brought along from the (former) Soviet Union and political tensions between the existing nation-states, they form communities on the basis of common language (Russian) and common past (Soviet). Unfortunately, the phenomenon has been under-researched, with only a handful of studies of Russian-speaking immigrant neighborhoods. This study characterizes the so called "Little Russia by the Sea", a small multiethnic and multilingual neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York. I conducted a linguistic landscape study of the area by analyzing the language usage in the public space, which has proven to be an effective approach to studying multilingual communities. In particular, I combined a quantitative analysis of the languages displayed on the business fronts in "Little Russia," according to their business types and the types of signs they have, with the detailed qualitative analysis of five representative English-Russian business fronts. I focused on the role of the Russian language in the community and its status based on its representations in the linguistic landscape of "Little Russia". The study showed the dominance of English as the language of power and wider communication and the presence of the Russian language on more than half of the business fronts. Other languages spoken by the immigrants from the former Soviet Union were present on only one or two business fronts. The Russian language was used for three major purposes: servicing (offering products and services to Russian-speaking population), material (goods made in Russia), and sentimental (appealing to collective identity and evoking memories from the Soviet culture). The text on business fronts also revealed various combinations of code-switching and transliterations of Russian and English. Further research is needed to study émigré Russian displayed in the public space in "Little Russia" as well as linguistic landscape studies of other Russian-speaking neighborhoods to see how they negotiate languages, cultures, and past and present.

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