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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

  • Classification – name: Literary studies
  • Author: Vladimir M. Alpatov
  • Pages: 15–24
  • Publisher: A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS Publ.)
  • Rights – description: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 (СС BY-ND)
  • Rights – URL: Visit Website
  • Language of the publication: Russian
  • Type of document: Research Article
  • Collection: Modern Language Policy: Theory and Practice
  • DOI:
  • Year of publication: 2022
  • Place of publication: Moscow
  • PDF

  • Alpatov, V.M. “Language Policy in Modern Society and Small Languages.” Modern Language Policy: Theory and Practice, ex. ed. Maria Ya. Kaplunova, Zhao Ronghui. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2022, pp. 15–24. (In Russ.) DOI:

Information about the author:

Vladimir M. Alpatov, DSc in Philology, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor, Head of the Research Center on Ethnic and Language Relations, Institute of Linguistics RAS, B. Kislovsky per., 1 p. 1, 125009 Moscow, Russia.


E–mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Each language is a special culture, a special kind of worldview, that should not be lost. However, small languages are constantly dying out. They may be more stable in the absence of constant contact with more widely spoken languages, but in the modern world language contacts are inevitably on the increase. Languages with a small number of speakers can only be used in limited communication with fellow tribesmen. Sometimes the process of language disappearance can be reversed. However, a more frequent case is when, gradually, a language shift occurs regardless of the social system where the language is being used. There have been many attempts to preserve languages, such as the policy program for the development of small languages in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s. However, such actions were only able to slow down the process of disappearance of those languages. Interest, prestige and financial gain can be incentives for the maintenence of minor languages. However, interest cannot be a decisive factor, the prestige of small languages is usually low, and it proves to be difficult to achieve any financial gain. The recent experience of European states can demonstrate the crucial role of raising living standards among language communities that can contribute to the preservation of small languages.

  • Keywords: language shift, language extinction, contacts, language prestige, preservation of languages, financial gain.


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