Transformational Power of Language in Lithuanian and Latvian (E)migration Prose

  • Laura Laurušaitė
Keywords: contemporary emigration, literary imagology, postcolonialism, Lithuanian literature, Latvian literature, culture conflict, East European, socialization, power


The author of this article employs some twenty-first-century Lithuanian and Latvian (e)migration literary accounts to examine various expressions of the (e)migrant language, speech, and linguistic inability. The goal of the article is to determine the ways a foreign linguistic medium affects the landscape of the identity of a contemporary mobile individual, and how the performative identity responds to the use of language. The author examines the additional content that language norms and codes acquire in emigration, and the ways in which individuals’ inability to express their thoughts in a non-native language diminishes the representative power and influence of the individual (emigrant). On the basis of the concepts and the power principle developed by post-colonialism and imagology, the author points to the power logic that reveals itself through language. She analyses linguistic paradoxes (lapsus linguae) provoked by intersecting languages and discusses the ways in which the deteriorating mother tongue skills and altered personal names relate directly to cultural integration and assimilation. The author also discusses the influence of linguistically hybridized sociolects (the language of emigrant construction workers) or medialects (the language of contemporary social networks) on the techniques of the “literary language”. Laura Laurušaitė argues that the functioning of language is primarily related to various perturbations of identity. Language and heritage, personal name and identity, linguistic expression and the representative power of an (e)migrant are closely interrelated and interact with each other. Without knowing the language of the host country, Lithuanian emigrants remain as outsiders or protagonists of a tragic fortune imprisoned between their lost linguistic environment and the new (poorly understood) language setting.