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“Form” and “function” in Soviet Stage Romani: Modeling metapragmatics through performance institutions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2002

Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1020 LSA Building, 500 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382,


A crucial division of linguistic labor is that among metalinguistic labors. Who is authorized to speak about language, how, and where? Language ideologies not only ascribe different functions to different languages; they also ascribe different sorts of metadiscourse to speakers of (or about) those languages. Drawing from archival and field work, this article traces the ways particular Soviet and post-Soviet institutions and actors modeled and regimented metapragmatic discourses, specifically through stage and screen practices and representations that hypercontextualized utterances in Romani. They became so hegemonic that, in public arenas, Romani speakers spoke only about nonreferential functions; only in less well broadcast contexts (and mainly with other Roma) did they articulate metalinguistic and metareferential discourses. These practices reverse and contrast with the mainstream metapragmatics of Russian. Language ideologies commonly rank codes and metadiscourses; this case illuminates not only that they do so, but also how they do so, and it suggests what their social effects may be.

Research Article
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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