Trajectory of language laws in Ukraine

Bilaniuk, Laada. 2022. The trajectory of language laws in Ukraine: inclusions and omissions in naming and categorization since 1989. Acta Slavica Iaponica 43: 49-71.

During three decades of Ukraine’s independence, Ukrainian has held the official status as the country’s sole state language, but there have been significant shifts in the legally designated statuses and uses of other languages. Language regulation has been contentious, and there has been much complexity, ambiguity, and contradiction in language laws. The aim of this paper is to present an overarching view of the trajectory of language regulation since 1989, by examining the languages that are named and the language categories that are listed in Ukraine’s key language laws. References to languages by name include terms such as Ukrainian, Russian, English, and Ukrainian Sign Language. Language categories refer to aspects of sociopolitical status, such as state language, minority language, language of international communication, and language of European Union countries. Omissions, when particular languages are not named, or when a language category implies exclusion of certain languages, are also significant. This analysis compares the laws of 1989, 2012, and 2019, which focus specifically on language regulation, along with the language regulating portions of the 1996 Constitution. While much has been written on language politics in Ukraine, this analysis presents a lens through which to view the major shifts in language law. While there are some consistent features across all four documents examined, terms that are unique to given laws highlight key shifts in ideologies of language regulation.

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