“Different Kinds of Foreigners”: Russian Speakers' Stereotypes, Discourse Strategies, and Modes of Interethnic Communication

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 12:00
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Kapitolina FEDOROVA, European University at St. Petersburg, Russia
The proposed paper deals with Russian native speakers’ perceptions and categorization of foreigners, their images and social roles prescribed to them on the base of sociolinguistic research on interethnic communication processes.  Most studies on images of foreigners in Russia focuses either on historical or literary (or folklore) sources, or on ethnic stereotypes collected by sociological and socio-psychological methods (questionnaires, association tests, etc.). Meanwhile actual interethnic communication and discourse strategies used by Russian speakers when interethnic with foreigners from different origin and social status can reveal crucial information on the ways foreigners are seen and treated in Russia and role their “otherness” plays in Russians’ self-identity construction. That’s why it is important to combine various research methods and approaches. In my presentation I will first explain the term “foreigner” and peculiarities of its use in Russian. Then I will describe most popular stereotypes about foreigners and their types. But main part of my presentation will consist of analysis of data obtained during my own studies of interaction between Russian speakers and foreigners in different settings. As two contrasting cases representing important East vs. West mythological construction I will use Russian speakers’ communication with foreign visitors from western countries in St. Petersburg and with Chinese migrant workers and traders in Transbaikalia. In the first case Russian speakers tend to play the role of overprotecting host, using discourse strategies aimed to minimize foreigners’ participation in dialogue and present them with a remarkably formal and hypercorrect language form. In the second case Russian speakers either ignore Chinese speakers communicative needs or (as a form of “professional communication”) use “broken language” which they are ashamed of and try to deny its existence. Different language attitudes and stereotypes, therefore, determine speakers’ world categorization and influence actual communication.