Language in the balance: The politics of non-accommodation in bilingual Ukrainian-Russian television shows

Bilaniuk, Laada. 2010. Language in the balance: The politics of non-accommodation in bilingual Ukrainian-Russian television shows.  International Journal of the Sociology of Language 201:105-133.

The practice of speaking one’s preferred language, Ukrainian or Russian, regardless of the language spoken by one’s interlocutor has become widespread in media and public life in Ukraine since independence. I refer to this practice as ‘‘non-accommodating bilingualism,’’ since for communication to occur the participating individuals are necessarily bilingual to some degree, but neither accommodates by switching to the language spoken by the other. In this article I investigate the prevalence, variety, and significance of non-accommodating bilingualism in Ukraine, with particular focus on television talk and game shows. I argue that while in some ways bilingual non-accommodation functions to defuse the contested issue of language choice, it can also perpetuate existing linguistic inequalities and tensions. Even in conversations where speakers are free to speak whichever language they prefer, the politics of Ukrainian and Russian language and ethnicity continue to be engaged.