Imagining the Shala-Kazakh : codeswitching and satire in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan
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This report addresses Russian-Kazakh codeswitching in Kazakhstan through a study of satirical skits called Shala-Kazakh Language Lessons that were broadcast on the sketch comedy show Nasha KZasha (‘Our Kazakh’). Using the theoretical frameworks of heteroglossia, language ideologies, satire, role alignment and publics, I analyze the performances as socially recognizable characterizations of speakers who codeswitch and the reflexive relationship between these satires and their subjects. Shala-Kazakhs, literally “‘half’-Kazakhs,” are typically described as young, urban, Russified Kazakhs who are unable to speak Kazakh or are semi-speakers of Kazakh. The term is employed by linguistic authorities to critique the public use of language that they deem “impure.” However, I find that the term is often used in the skits to characterize any language variety or speaker that is perceived as heavily influenced by Russian language and culture or does not fit into a binary classification. I trace the history of this ideology of linguistic purism through Soviet models of ethnolinguistic categories and analyze the ways that Kazakhstanis in the present day use the circulating, satirical portraits to negotiate the complex social environment shaped by these ideologies. Through the use of heteroglossic language, or language that pulls all associations of a word into each use, speakers who codeswitch create fluidity in the clearly-defined categories. Through this analysis, I contribute to the body of work that addresses how language mixing disrupts the ideology of linguistic purism and how ordinary speakers shape their speech practices in relation to easily recognizable portraits of speakers through social interaction. In this way, heterglossic speech draws attention to the heterogeneous nature of language that is often erased through the language policies, education system, and cultural programs of elite, government authorities. By refocusing on the permeable boundaries between these categories and the criticisms the comedians make of purist language ideologies, I address the speakers and languages that are otherwise erased through ideology.