The Vepsians (or Veps) of Northern Russia number just over 8,000, but only 6,000 of them speak the native language. Of the remaining speakers, most are more than 50 years old. As part of her honors thesis, LSA senior Bryn Hauk is working to document and preserve this endangered language.
A Russian and linguistics major, Hauk spent a month in Russia last summer conducting fieldwork and interning at a Russian museum. She interviewed Veps families and community leaders and distributed language attitude surveys. Her goal was to better understand why some Veps had more of an investment than others in preserving the language. “Some Veps believe the language is already dead or don't believe it's worth saving,” Hauk says. “Others think that it is still vital and active.”
Hauk has analyzed over 30 completed language attitude surveys along with several publications.
“In my thesis, I'm looking to attribute differences in [language] optimism to geographical distribution,” she says. “Veps living in regions less strongly affected by Soviet repressions generally have a more positive outlook on the language than those living in regions where indigenous languages were effectively outlawed.”
Read more about Hauk’s adventures and research on her blog, Linguist at Large.