A Study on Internet Language Diffusion Patterns in Uzbekistan

                                      Hoe-Kyun Shin
should be noted that the three major languages of Uzbek, Russian, and Tajik are, respectively, from
three completely diffe...
Also besides above mentioned research woks, this paper relates more about language and internet
diffusion works. Purposes ...
Figure 1
                                Internet Language Use in Uzbekistan (%)

      100               95
unique patterns of behavior. For example, someone who was educated at a Russian language school
and speaks Russian at work...
grows and matures with the local information and communication technology infrastructure and pool
of software and technolo...
Data Sources:

[1] “Review of Information and Communication Technologies Development in Uzbekistan” ICT
Policy Project in ...
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A study on internet language diffusion patterns in uzbekistan


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A study on internet language diffusion patterns in uzbekistan

  1. 1. A Study on Internet Language Diffusion Patterns in Uzbekistan Hoe-Kyun Shin Professor, Dept of Industrial Management, Kumoh Nat'l Institute of Technology, Korea hkshin@kumoh.ac.kr Shoaziz Shaabidov Student, Dept of Industrial Management, Kumoh Nat’l Institute of Technology, Korea shoobidovshoaziz@mail.ru Abstract This paper reports on a study of Internet use in Uzbekistan, a multilingual and multiethnic society that is experiencing linguistic reforms in addition to other social and political transitions. This paper briefly reviews current status of a survey conducted in Uzbekistan, relating to Internet uses language choices and perceptions of language on the Internet. Key words: Internet, language, multilingualism, information technology. 1. Introduction English language material widely dominates the World Wide Web. A relatively small amount of locally produced content for numerous languages and cultures suggests that the Internet may not contain relevant information for many people. Users from under represented cultures may therefore have unique perceptions of and adaptations to the Internet. This paper reports on a study of Internet in Uzbekistan, a multilingual and multiethnic society that is experiencing linguistic reforms in addition to other social and political transitions. This paper briefly reviews current status of languages and linguistic policies in Uzbekistan. In this paper, we use Uzbekistan as a site to explore these issues of resistance on Internet adoption patterns. Uzbekistan is a rich region to study such issues because it is a multilingual and multiethnic society where Internet use is still emerging: 2202900 citizens (about 12 or 13% of the population) are estimated by the Uzbek government to use the Internet (ICT Policy Project in Uzbekistan). These early stages of Internet diffusion allow us to see the patterns of resistance that users exhibit when adopting a technology that in many ways conflicts with pre-existing models of communication and media usage. Ultimately, this paper examines how Uzbeks express their national identity on the Internet and adapt to the dearth of Uzbek websites; the usage patterns of this novice population are situated within an overall discussion of how minority language content on the Internet provides a way of understanding resistance to media globalization on a larger scale. This paper contributes to continued problematization of the Internet as an egalitarian and utopian space that can give a voice to all. Further, it helps researchers and designers of websites understand why supporting less commonly used languages on the Internet matters. 2. Language Transition in Uzbekistan Uzbekistan is one of the newly independent states of Central Asia that is redefining its cultural, political, and economic identity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The region has a rich mix of cultures, ethnicities, and languages. The country’s majority is consisted of Uzbek ethnicity with minorities such as Russians, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Tatars, and Koreans. By far the most common language is Uzbek, but Russian is a widely spoken native or second language, particularly in large cities. In different regions of Uzbekistan, other languages such as Tajik in Samarkand and Bukhara are also widely spoken (pic.1). Individuals who are fluent in more than one language are the norm in large cities and in ethnically diverse areas. To contextualize the feat of mastering multiple languages, it
  2. 2. should be noted that the three major languages of Uzbek, Russian, and Tajik are, respectively, from three completely different language families (Turkic, Slavic, and Persian) and are subsequently distinctive from one another aside from borrowed words and grammatical influences that have permeated the languages due to close contact with one another. As in many countries, language use in Uzbekistan is closely linked with ethnicity. Over 90% of Uzbeks and Russians, respectively, speak Uzbek and Russian as their primary language at home. But whereas about 40% of Uzbeks claimed “very fluent” facility in Russian, only about 10% of Russians were “very fluent” in Uzbek. Historically, Russian had no career incentives for learning Uzbek, and might have also been the perception that Uzbek is inferior to Russian because its vocabulary is underdeveloped for modern scientific and technical discussions. Informally, the belief that Uzbek language is spoken only by ethnic Uzbeks is widely internalized; that is, most Uzbeks assume they need to speak Russian or English with a non-Uzbek or Foreigner. Ties between language and ethnicity and the political climate of Uzbekistan suggest that the use of Uzbek language on the Web would be a political statement with ethnic overtones. Choosing to use Uzbek would be a declaration of Uzbekistan and perhaps, as well, the intended audience of the message is Uzbek. Picture 1 Languages of Uzbekistan 3. Previous Study Interactions with the Internet may result in a promotion of nationalism for those seeking out domestically produced web material. In addition, the Internet provides a space for users to self- express their nationalism using their own words and language. This is particularly important with respect to how national identity is constructed and exercised within countries with multiple minority language. During Soviet times, Russian was encouraged (but never made an official state language) to aid in the formation of a unified Soviet culture and identity (Schlyter, 2003). Although Uzbek was still commonly spoken, Russian became a privileged language of higher education and government jobs. Starting in October 1989, state laws raising the status of Uzbek language were passed (Smith et al., 1998). Some of the language reforms included making Uzbek the official state language and removing any special recognitions for Russian. Russian, however, is still the most emphasized language other than Uzbek in school (Landau & Kellner-Heinkele, 2001). The links between language and ethnicity and the political background of Uzbekistan suggest that language choice, such as on the Internet, may be a highly personal and complex issue.
  3. 3. Also besides above mentioned research woks, this paper relates more about language and internet diffusion works. Purposes of these works are examining how characteristics of language use, online identity and social structure can be used to characterize prominent participants, or leaders and their role in creating and diffusing innovation. For example, in Mongolia, the official language is Mongolian, but English and Russian are also widely used on the internet. It is known what percentage of users searched Mongolian websites or whether their ability to search the Web constrained by language barriers. On interviews, the respondents who said they used the Internet proved versatile at overcoming a relative scarcity of Mongolian language sites (Catherine A. Johnson, 2002). Another example for internet language diffusion is from Indonesia. Indonesia has more than 740 local languages. Residents of English countries may use many other languages, but a few other countries can match Indonesia for diversity within one country. The relationship between languages on the Internet and diversity of language within a country indicates that even with a global network, national states have a role to play in encouraging language diversity in cyberspace. Language diversity can be viewed as much within a country as within the Internet as a whole. A rich diversity of written pages is found in the country with the richest diversity of languages in the region, in Indonesia. It is interesting to note that there are significantly larger number pages in Javanese compare to that of Indonesian. It is even more surprising if we also include Malay language. Indonesia and Malay language can be categorized into a single root Indo-Malay language spoken in different dialects. This is the major language found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Southern Thailand and Philippines. A surprising result shows two facts: Javanese is dominating web presence in Indonesia and that most of Indo-Malay websites and pages are hosted in generic domains and not in ccTLDs of those countries. The lesser Sundanese, Madurese, Achehnese and Bugisnese are found to be of great importance to Indonesia’s local language diversity on the Internet (Hammam Riza et. al, 2006). 4. Survey Method, Analysis Results and Discussion Uzbekistan is a productive country to study the effect of language and culture on nascent Internet use given its complex language heritage and small population of Internet users (less than 13% of the people). The paper is based on a portion of a survey, which asked questions related to information-seeking and technology use. The survey contained mostly short-answer questions and a few multiple-choice questions. Of the 51 people in the sample, 17 were Internet users. The following results refer only to this subset of Internet users. 4.1. Demographic Background of Respondents Two-thirds of the Internet users were male and one-third were female. Over half of them were less than 30 years old. About 75% of the respondents were ethnic Uzbeks. Internet users were in all regions in Uzbekistan, with nearly 85% of them in urban areas. About 95% of Internet users reported excellent knowledge of Russian, reflecting past emphasis on Russian language in the education system. Over 75% reported having excellent knowledge of Uzbek. More than 25% could speak excellent Tajik, and slightly less than 25% knew excellent English (fig.1). Almost 80% of Internet users claimed to have excellent knowledge of at least two languages (especially Uzbek and Russian), many of them in three or more. Everyone reported having at least some fluently in two or more languages, suggesting that multilingualism is necessary in Uzbekistan.
  4. 4. Figure 1 Internet Language Use in Uzbekistan (%) 100 95 75 80 60 40 25 25 20 0 Russian English Uzbek Tajik 4.2. Language and the Internet in Uzbekistan Internet usage is still emerging in Uzbekistan. Respondents reported that they used the Internet an average of 8 hours per week. On average, their most frequent activities were sending and receiving e- mail and visiting Web sites, which they did a few times a week. They chatted/instant messaged, played games, or worked on Web sites less than once a week or rarely. Over half of the Internet users got online most often at cybercafés. 4.3. Language Choice on the Internet A variety of languages is used on the Internet in Uzbekistan. Not unexpectedly, nearly 98% of respondents reported using Russian on the Internet. However, only 13% said they used Uzbek, surprising due to a large number of people who claimed to speak fluent Uzbek. On the other hand, over 70% of respondents said they used English on the Internet, a much larger percentage than those who reported having an excellent internet facility. Tajik was used by less than 5% of the respondents on the Internet (fig.2). When asked to indicate the language they use the most often on the Internet, about 65% of respondents said they use Russian, and about 35% said they use English. Figure 2 Internet Users Language Knowledge (%) 98 100 70 50 0 13 5 Russian English Uzbek Tajik Skill level is only one factor influencing the languages that people choose to use on the Internet. There may be many underlying reasons why Uzbeks do not use Uzbek on the Internet, or why people who do not speak fluent English use English. A relatively small amount of Uzbek language material on the Web, compared with the prevalence of English (and to some degree, Russian) material may be an influencing factor. Complex connections between language skills and experiences may also lead to
  5. 5. unique patterns of behavior. For example, someone who was educated at a Russian language school and speaks Russian at work and Uzbek at home may be more accustomed to seeking information in Russian than in Uzbek. Another factor in language choice on the Internet relates to the users who communicate with others through the Internet. Respondents were asked to indicate the type of people they communicated with through the Internet and their physical location. Over 80% of respondents reported family, friends, colleagues, or classmates outside of Uzbekistan; using Russian or English may be a deliberate international choice in that case. For the half of respondents who reported people inside Uzbekistan, Russian or English may be more widely understood than Uzbek due to this multilingual environment. 4.4. Perceptions of Language on the Internet The survey also asked respondents to rate their level of agreement with a number of statements. Internet users tended to agree that “People have to use Russian very often when they use the Internet” but they also agreed that “There should be more Web sites in Russian.” These seemingly conflicting statements may instead be implying internet users’ complex concerns. Some Internet users may be comfortable using Russian but would prefer more content pertinent to Uzbekistan. Most Russian language Web sites come from Russia and other Russophone countries and, though readable, may not be relevant. On the surface, these attitudinal statements address language presence on the Internet, but cultural heritage and source of Web content may also be referenced in the subtexts. Internet users tended to agree that “There should be more Web sites in Uzbek,” suggesting that one of the reasons very few of them use Uzbek on the Internet may indeed be a shortage of Uzbek language content. Users also tended to agree that “People have to use English too often when they use the Internet” and also agreed less strongly that “It is difficult to use the Internet if you do not know any English.” These statements suggest that English is widely perceived, is to be a necessary skill to use the Internet, and helps to explain why even those who were not fluent in English chose to use the language online. 5. Conclusion The data reported here indicates that multilingualism as well as the politicized nature of language in Uzbekistan require Internet users to carefully make choices about the languages they use in face-to- face situation as well as online interactions. They must balance their own preferences with social norms, political climates, and the information resources and technology tools that are available to them. They may feel resistant to the dominant global language (English) as well as the dominant former colonizing language (Russian). However, with influences of education and custom, Russian may have been nativized into a local language that is very comfortable and practical to use; multilingual Uzbek identity may actually be an intertwinement of Uzbek, Russian, and perhaps English. Hence the survey revealed mixed attitudes, where respondents felt there were too much not enough Russian on the Internet. There is no clear-cut acceptance or rejection of Russian and English: the perceptions of the dominance of Russian and English on the Web are, to some extent, contradicted by the frequent use of Russian and English on the Internet, suggesting that resistance to globalization is a multilayered and nuanced process, just as globalization itself homogenizes local cultural particularities rather than leaving behind a uniform imprint wherever it travels. Some respondents reported using Uzbek on the Internet suggests it has not been completely sublimated by globalization. However, many respondents could speak Uzbek but did not use it on the Web, implies a disjuncture between the culture of the physical world and the culture that is facilitated in the virtual world. This phenomenon may be a part of the effacement of local cultures by the globalization of the Internet and a portent that Uzbek is not appropriate for the Web. But more likely it is a cue that researchers must further explore how Uzbek can be included on the Internet. Given that the upcoming generation of young people will heavily favor Uzbek language because of their schooling and the political climate, it seems critical to understand how they interact with digital networks if they are to be included. Uzbek Internet users, though novices, already use the Internet and hold beliefs about the Web that suggests potential resistance to the agenda of globalization. As the population of Internet users
  6. 6. grows and matures with the local information and communication technology infrastructure and pool of software and technology development talent, researchers may observe more active online engagement in resistance to globalization, mirroring the previously cited examples of users in other countries who reclaimed Internet practices to fit their own cultures. The lessons that Uzbekistan offers on the inclusion of less common languages on the Web can be extended to other cultures as well. As more linguistically diverse people get online, it will be crucial to understand how they perceive and use the Internet, leading more culturally relevant materials and tools to be created to make the Web inclusive, and so that these languages can resist and survive globalization. References [1] Beth E. Kolko, Carolyn Y. Wei, Jan H. Spyridakis. Internet use in Uzbekistan: Developing a methodology for tracking information technology implementation success. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Information and International Development. Volume 1, Number 2, winter 2003 1-19 [2] Carolyn Y. Wei and Beth E. Kolko. Resistance to globalization: Language and Internet diffusion patterns in Uzbekistan. Department of Technical Communication, University of Washington. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, Vol. 11, No 2, December 2005, 205-220 [3] Carolyn Y. Wei. Language and the Internet in Uzbekistan. Department of Technical Communications, University of Washington. 2003 [4] Beth E. Kolko, Carolyn Y. Wei, Jan H. Spyridakis. The relationship of Culture and Information- Seeking Behaviour: A Case Study in Central Asia. Department of Technical Communications, University of Washington. [5] Beth E. Kolko. Cross-Cultural Issues Affecting ICT Development: A Case Study of Uzbekistan. Department of Technical Communication, University of Washington, 2005 [6] B.N. Schlyter. Sociolinguistic changes in transformed Central Asian societies, in Languages in a Globalisting World, J. Maurais and M.A.Morris, Eds,. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. [7] J.M. Landrau and B. Kellner-Heinkele. Politics of Language in the Ex-Soviet Muslim States: Azerbayjan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan. London: Hurst and Company, 2001. [8] Catherine A. Johnson. Exploring the digital divide in Mongolia: Who uses the Internet and what factors affect its use? Faculty of Information Studies. University of Toronto. Toronto, Ontario. 2002. [9] Hammam Riza, Moedjino, Yoshiki Mikami. Indonesian Languages Diversity on the Internet. Agency for the assessment and application of technology (BPPT), Indonesia. Ministry of Communication and Information, Indonesia. Nagaoka University of Technology, Niigata, Japan. 2006. [10] Milam Aiken, Mahesh Vanjani. Central Asian Information Technology Development. School of Business Administration, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677. JHJ School of Business, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX 77004. [11] Francois Cade, Matthias Legin, Abdugapur Karimkhodjaev, Tursunali Norboev, Saidkodir Akramov. E Campus Central Asia: An example of international collaboration for e-learning SIIG, University R. Schuman Strasburg, France. National University of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. [12] David Huffaker. Leadership and Diffusion in Online Communities: Features of Language Use, Identity and Social structure. Northwestern University Evanston, IL 60208. [13] Chensheng. Chinese Internet Language: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Adaption of the Chinese Writing System. The Ohio State University. 2003. [14] Marta Caceres, Fay Sudweeks. The Diffusion of the Internet in Chile. School of Information Technology, Murdoch University. Murdoch WA 6150. [15] Gregore Erbach. Mapping, Measuring, and Modelling the Diffusion of Linguistic Material on the Internet. German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. Language Technology Lab. 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. 2004 [16] Eric McGlinchey, Erica Johnson. Aiding the Internet in Central Asia. Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University. Department of Political Science, University of Washington. 2005
  7. 7. Data Sources: [1] “Review of Information and Communication Technologies Development in Uzbekistan” ICT Policy Project in Uzbekistan. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Web: http://www.uctp.uz [2] Internet World Stats, Usage and population Statistics.Web: http://www.internetworldstats.com [3] Ethnologue. Languages of the World. Web: http://ethnologue.com