Language and Nationalism in Georgia, and the West's Response

"Language and Nationalism in Georgia, and the West's Response", to appear in: Towards a New Community. Culture and Politics in Post-Totalitarian Europe.  1993, SSEES, 161-176.

Given the welter of pressing problems facing the countries of E. Europe, some  may regard discussion of the fate of this or that language to be of trivial importance. One could,  of course, examine the Caucasus, especially  Georgia, from a number of standpoints --political, social, economic, etc.. -- but, as a linguist, I  have chosen the language-perspective. I  hope we can all agree that a language is not merely a vehicle for certain academics to earn their livelihood, such that one or two fewer here or there does not really matter; there  is surely such an intimate bond between language and culture, that, if the language disappears, the distinctness of  the associated culture must at the very least be threatened. With this in mind, I think there is cause for concern  over the likely fate of a number of the 38  (or so) indigenous languages of the Caucasus both generally and specifically in connection with  nationalist fever inside Georgia, as I hope to demonstrate.

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