The democratization of Russian
People are not born with equal opportunities. This also concerns their linguistic capabilities. At the same time, human language is, by its very nature, democratic in the sense that all children learn their mother tongue in a similar way – by imitating the speech of their parents and building on that basis their own personal grammars and vocabularies, which gradually start to resemble the ‘correct’ language of the people around them. No one can buy a language or receive it from adults as a ready-made product; everyone has to go through the learning process him- or herself.
With regard to language usage, uniform processes have taken place in all modern societies during the last few decades. In all cases we are dealing with a vernacularization of language: the language that is seen and heard in everyday life is becoming less official and closer to the language that the majority of people use themselves. This concerns not only face-to-face interaction, but also written forms of language. This phenomenon is particularly evident in the mass media, where features of colloquial speech have substantially increased in contexts that used to require a more official style.
In Russia, a similar democratization process in language usage has occurred, but by comparison with other countries it has taken place in a more radical form and at a very quick tempo. The Soviet public language, which (typically for a totalitarian country) had been very stiff and regulated, was replaced by an exceptionally multi-voiced linguistic landscape that allowed for almost everyone to be heard in the public space.