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Name: Katie Harrison

PhD: Russian and Slavonic Studies

Thesis Title: Preserving Identities: the relationship between language and identity in the Ukrainian diaspora in the United Kingdom

Thesis Description:

My research examines the link between language and ethnic identity in the Ukrainian diaspora of the United Kingdom, and aims to identify how significant a role language plays in the formation of both individual and group ethnic identity within this community. More specifically, it will examine the language practices and language ideologies/attitudes of the members of the diaspora, and will provide an overview of the sociolinguistic situation within a community on which, to date, very little research - linguistic or otherwise - has been conducted (Petryshyn 1980; Jenkala 1991, 1994).

In order to explore such matters, I have adopted a mixed methods approach to research, with both quantitative and qualitative data being collected through various research methods. These include a sociolinguistic survey, semi-structured interviews, ethnographic observations, and analysis of teaching materials use in Ukrainian complementary schools. This research is conducted multilingually, with English, Ukrainian and Russian being used to varying degrees whilst collecting data.


The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Language Practices
    • to assess when and how often the Ukrainian language is used in the UK;
    • to examine the influence of other languages (English and Russian)  on the Ukrainian used by diaspora members.

  • Language Ideologies/Attitudes
    • to uncover whether there are any differences in attitudes towards language between different generations in the diaspora, e.g. do the older generations feel more opposed to the use of Anglicisms/Russisms;
    • to uncover whether there are any differences in attitudes towards language between different migration waves, e.g. descendants of post-WWII migrants and post-Soviet migrants, whose language may be more Russified;
    • to explore how Ukrainian is taught to younger diaspora members, as attitudes towards language may be expressed in what educators say;
    • to examine attitudes towards the interplay between Ukrainian and other languages (English and Russian).

  • Language and identity
    • to explore the importance of the Ukrainian language to diaspora members;
    • to investigate whether language is considered to be an important factor in developing the cultural awareness of second/third/fourth generation members of these communities;
    • to find out whether any other factors are considered to play an important role in the formation of Ukrainian identity.

  • Language Teaching
    • to investigate how Ukrainian is taught to children in the diaspora;
    • to uncover the language practices of teachers and students during lessons at Ukrainian Saturday school;
    • to analyse the teaching materials used in schools;
    • to investigate how attitudes, practices and identity intersect in this setting.


By adopting a mixed methods approach to this research, it is hoped that an in-depth insight into the sociolinguistic situation within the Ukrainian diaspora will be obtained. This project will uncover how important an ethnic minority group residing in the United Kingdom considers their heritage language to be. These findings could potentially be applied to other ethnic minority communities in the United Kingdom - especially those from former Soviet states - and could influence future policy decisions regarding heritage languages and bilingualism in education in the United Kingdom.


Russian (C2), Ukrainian (C1), Slovene (B1), German (A2/B1)


Supervisors and Institution(s):  
Professor Nicola McLelland (UoN), Dr Polly McMichael (UoN), Dr Adam Swain (UoN).


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • OWRI/MEITS Workshop: European experiences of 'good' language and 'bad' language, July 2017, University of Nottingham
    • Paper: Language Practices and Ideologies in Ukrainian Schools in the UK
    • Discussion (chair): Experiences of 'good' and 'bad' language in the complementary school: a teacher's perspective
  • Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics, March 2017, University of Newcastle
    • Poster Presentation: Linguistic Ethnography in the Ukrainian Saturday School: Some Initial Reflections
  • OWRI/Cross-Language Dynamics Workshop: Language Ideologies, within, across, and against borders, March 2017, Durham University
    • Paper: Language Practices and Attitudes in the Ukrainian Diaspora
  • Participation in University of Nottingham ML/Linguistics Reading Group
  • Member of CLAS Symposium Organising Committee
  • Editor of PG Journal, Journal of Languages, Texts, and Society
  • Postgraduate support tutor, University of Nottingham Modern Languages Summer School



  • Attended AHRC Public Policy Workshops
  • CLAS Symposium, University of Nottingham, April 2015
    Paper: 'Language, Nation and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine'

Other Research Interests:
Multilingualism; translanguaging; contemporary Ukraine; Slavonic languages; FSU countries; language and identity; language contact; language shift; language policy; language ideologies; sociolinguistics.





University email address:




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