Becoming a Class for Itself: Lev Iakubinskii and the Principles of the Proletarian Language Policy


The article focuses on an attempt to develop Marxist approach to linguistics in Lev Iakubinskii and Anatoly Ivanov’s book Essays on language (1932). This collection of essays was widely known in the early thirties and had a direct impact on many contemporaries including Mikhail Bakhtin and Victor Zhirmunskii but later was condemned as an example of “vulgar sociologism” and consigned to oblivion. Iakubinskii and Ivanov states that the proletariat had a particular mission, which consisted in breaking the “illusion of unity” of a nation created by the bourgeois policy of language unification. They argue that the insolvable contradiction of the bourgeois language policy is its incapacity to become universal in the conditions of social differentiations linked to the unevenness of development. At the same time, the contradiction between the tendency for universality and the class oppression is dialectical and serves as the “internal driving force” of language development that should provide the basis for the language policy of proletariat.

Keywords: language policy, Lev Iakubinskii, vulgar sociologism, Soviet Cultural Revolution, historical materialism, Marxist linguistics

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