Restoration of the Linguistic Tradition of Ethnic Livs (Latvia): Aspects of Motivation
Livs are one of the Baltic Finnish ethnic groups, their historical location is northwestern part of Latvia. According to the 2011 census, 250 individuals defined themselves as Livs, and this marks a significant rise of their population, compared to 48 individuals in 1970s.
Linguistically Livs are Fenno-Ugrians, thus differing from Latvians, who represent Indo-Europeans. Ethnological data of 19th and 20th century provide evidence, that Livs have been predominantly bi-literal: they were in command of both Liv language and Latvian, leaving their own language in the second place as a communication tool in families and local community. During the Soviet occupation the Liv language was actively destroyed and it did not appear in public space. Therefore the natural inheriting of the language diminished consequently, until it was broken as, supposedly, the last native speaker Grizelda Kristiņa (b. 1910) deceased in 2013.
Nowadays one can observe a strong tendency to restore Liv culture and linguistic tradition. The present-day statistics indicates about 200 speakers of Liv language, but only 40 are fluent in conversation (level B1), besides, only half of them are ethnic Livs. It can be stated that the interest towards culture, language and its revival has been stronger outside the Liv community than inside it. Field research shows that members of the Liv community recognize the increase of prestige and popularity of their language, nevertheless the main language experts today are researchers and interested amateurs. This might serve as an evidence that the language tradition is revived rather than inherited within the Liv community.
What is the motivation to restore the language tradition in the 21st century, if the instrumental linguistic function of ethnic minorities has become clearly marginalized and only symbolic aspects have remained topical – this question will be examined in the paper.