The other polysystem

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This article examines how shifts in the socio-political context in Latvia have affected the norms and conventions of both translation language and original language. After 50 years of assymetric bilingualism (with the increasing dominance of Russian), Latvian language policy was changed radically by the Language Law of 1989, passed two years before Latvia regained independence. Language protections were further strengthened after independence and enshrined (with certain sociolinguistic concessions) in the State Language Law of 1999. Latvian is today the sole official language of the country and the laws and regulations have increasingly focused on encouraging the use of Latvian as a language of administration, media, merchandise instructions, etc. Accession to the EU made Latvian an official language of the Union as well. Already in the 1990s, English replaced Russian as the major contact language and today about two thirds of Latvian texts are translations from English, followed by Russian, German, and Scandinavian languages. As approximately 70% percent of the texts consumed by the average Latvian are translations, translation language has inevitably affected Latvian itself. A shift in norms and conventions – mostly aligning Latvian with English – can be observed. While this represents the third shift within the last two centuries, former influences remain evident in the language as well.


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