Bilingualism à la Welsh or à la Belarusian?

croesoigymruRecently I have visited Wales for the first time. Apart from the dramatic scenery, what truly impressed me was the omnipresent bilingualism.

All road signs, information boards in shops and churches, were both in Welsh and English. These languages have a completely different origin, with Welsh belonging to the Brittonic group of the Celtic family of languages.

The mountainous terrain made Wales pretty much inaccessible for outsiders for centuries, thus the distinct language, culture and identity have developed.  The linguistic politics of the authorities also helped.

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Religion and Language

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The writing on the shop display at the Minsk airport, “The native tongue”

So here I am in Belarus, a country with two official languages – Belarusian and Russian. The latter one remains, however, lingua franca. It is the language of almost all spheres of public life, including media, politics, and education. Belarusian remains largely marginalised.

I have written more about it here.

Yet, this linguistic complexity is interesting from my research point of view.
Why certain groups of people decide to express themselves in Belarusian, not in Russian? Why in Russian only? Why solely in Belarusian? Should I pay attention to those choices  or are they rather random? Do they necessary carry a political meaning?

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