Accepted paper:

Agency of an ever-changing ecology and non-human animals on Vepsian verbal and non-verbal communication practices


Laura Siragusa (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

People engage in verbal and non-verbal communication practices in relation to the ecology in which they find themselves. Stemming from an analysis of Vepsian translative case, I demonstrate how non-human animals and the ever-changing ecology hold agency on Vepsian ways of speaking.

Paper long abstract:

This paper shows how humans are responding to an ever-changing environment at local level aiming attention at ways of speaking. Specifically, it focuses on the agency held by non-human animals on human behaviour and verbal communication practices within a specific ecology, comprising both urban and rural settings. Veps traditionally occupy a rural territory in north-western Russia and are generally bilingual in Vepsian and Russian. Vepsian villagers tend to appreciate that the behaviour of non-human animals organically responds to the local ecosystem. By observing it closely, the rural dwellers can predict future events and act accordingly. Such ontology extends to Vepsian ways of speaking, as in Vepsian the translative nominal case is also used to anticipate the future. In the last century specific ideologies of civilization and progress, convoluted with a fast-changing economy, have led many Veps to move to the city. Such movement has had an effect on Vepsian ways of speaking, as they tend to adopt mostly Russian in the city (hence, dropping the use of Vepsian and its intrinsic relational characteristics). Questions related to environmental issues often challenge people's behaviour and their endeavours to adjust to the new settings. With this paper, I pinpoint a specific aspect of social life which is often neglected when discussing environmental issues, i.e., verbal and non-verbal communication practices in relation to non-human animals and the ecology in which people manifest language.

panel P004
Environmental crisis, humans and all others