Mäetagused vol. 3 8


Dysphemisms on the Estonian Internet

Liisi Laineste

Key words: aggressive nicknames, aggression, ethnic slur, dysphemisms, web lore, ethnic humour

Ethnic, religious or other group-based dysphemisms are the most obvious manifestations of prejudice, ethnocentrism, sometimes even indicating actual feelings of xenophobia. But they also mirror the present and past on interethnic relationships, as slurs and dysphemisms are part of a nation’s or a group’s reactions to culture contacts, for example to the ethnic diversification of society. Nicknames are affected by quite objective factors like the amount and density of population, migration, etc., becoming more aggressive in the context of insecurity, fast and unanticipated changes, or perceived/actual threat on the welfare of the group. The present study focuses on the use of aggressive nicknames in the Estonian web from the sociological and folkloristic perspective. The material covers the years 2000–2007 and features news comments posted on the Estonian online news portal www.delfi.ee from a selection of one-week periods from each year. The study describes the main objects of online flaming and the social background of target choice.

The results show that online commenters play with the concepts of normal and abnormal, right and wrong, good and bad, while naming the “other”. They display their (sometimes radical) nationalism through juxtaposing themselves to “abnormal groups”. Temporal dynamics of ethnic and other hate speech in news comments show that the highest relative amount of slurs were used in 2003, regardless of the rise in national consciousness following the public disturbances in Estonia in April 2007. This trend is supported by the rise in other categories and by a sharp and direct confrontation to the “other” in Internet comments (but also the news themselves) during 2003. In the last years, commenters appear to use much less aggressive and straightforwardly offensive language to characterise groups other than their own. The trends show higher sensitivity and sense of responsibility, and the use of argument for the need of political correctness, possible censorship or even fear of punishment. The biggest number of instances of offensive slang are directed against Russians, while homosexualism and religion are also targets of dysphemisms. At the same time, ethnic slurs against Russians are proportionally much lower than those used against Gypsies, the Black or gays. Thus, as the number of comments in the case of a news story about Gypsys, for example, is much smaller than in the case of (very often provocative and emotional) news featuring Russians, the relative amount is somewhat distracting. The use and intensity of flaming also depends on many contextual cues: the news story and its construction, its main subjects, the identity or attitudes of the commenting persons, the social context of the news, etc.

Dysphemisms as indicators of a nation’s self-identification and feelings of ethnic or other superiority are here described as a general phenomena in the Estonian Internet. A more detailed study of the social psychological aspects is needed on how the public, media, politicians, or targeted groups perceive flaming. In addition, a historical overview of Estonian ethnic slurs, religious and other nicknames and their etymology would be in order.

The Formation, Development and Manifestations of Lore Material in Estonian Family Forum

Reeli Reinaus

Key words: folklore, folklore genres, Internet, folk wisdom, transmitting of lore

The article discusses the spread, reception and manifestations of folklore in online environment. The material under discussion has been drawn from the forum of the online Estonian family portal www.perekool.ee

The first part of the article explores the spread and development of lore material and related behavioural patterns in the forum. The author also points out the ways in which the attitudes towards a homogeneous corpus of material differ in terms of the mode of presentation.

Since today virtual communities have become the primary form of social interaction for many people, the place where they spend most of their day, these environments naturally involve the creation and transmitting of folkloric information.

The attitude towards folkloric material in this particular forum may depend on the context and the background knowledge of receivers: folklore is both ridiculed and valued. Often the attitudes depend on how, by whom and in relation of what it is presented. It is noteworthy that beliefs are spread in the forum within one generation. While formerly beliefs were transmitted from older generation to the younger, the older generation and their worldview, which is perceived as irrational from the viewpoint of modern science, is no longer considered trustworthy. However, if it is presented as someone’s personal experience story, the belief is accepted as an alternative way.

The second part of the article observes the forms and functions of material that could be categorised as folkloric. The forums feature a variety of folklore genres: folklore related to the religious world (belief accounts, memorates, and legends) and entertaining material. The entertaining function of the forum becomes evident even in the inclusion of religious themes for entertaining purposes.

Forums of active use, such as www.perekool.ee, help to spread folklore by actualising the latent material in people’s knowledge. This is why some archaic beliefs may generate questions and doubts even in modern times. The family forum Perekool thus becomes the reconstructer of omens and beliefs as well as the distributor of new phenomena.

Deaf Community, Sign Language and Sign Lore in Technological Environments Supporting the Visual Aid

Liina Paales

Key words: Internet, deaf, deaf folklore, hearing devices, hearing impairment, sign language, visual technologies

The article discusses the specific devices for the deaf people, and sign language and deaf lore in the new technological situation. There are different types of hearing aids supporting the concept of the deaf as the disabled who must be cured from their deafness and taught to communicate orally with the hearing world. Today there are many modern devices that support the visual aid, which is more comfortable for the deaf. In fact, for the deaf who are more cultured there is nothing to be cured or healed. They are sceptical about the emergence of any new medical device (e.g., cochlear implant), which aim seems to be turning a deaf into a hearing person.

The deaf have become adapted to new technologies for their community’s needs and use their language, culture and folklore in new environments, such as the Internet. Various telecommunication devices have made the direct translation of sign language possible. The deaf have become used to communicating on cell phones, videophones, web cameras, etc.

Sign language communities have discovered the virtual space to share their culture and folklore among the community members and with the hearing world. There are many examples of deaf lore available on the Internet, mostly from among American deaf folklore. Many stories have been translated from sign language into verbal language, but one can also encounter authentic sign language texts in the form of video clips, sometimes with voiceover or subtitles. Virtual space is a wonderful place to present deaf people’s own folklore, which has also been called sign lore. Fine examples of sign lore are ABC stories and number stories, also some popular signs like ‘I Love You’ sign. Deaf comics are also part of deaf lore and culture. Deaf comics characterise the cultural side of deafness from a humorous viewpoint.

New technologies offer the deaf good opportunities for expressing their culture and promoting sign language and also for being in touch with other community members and with the hearing people.

With the Fading Echo of Bronze Soldier’s Footsteps
Estonian Repatriates in Siberia and Their Adaptation in Estonia: Language, Stereotypes, Biography

Aivar Jürgenson

Key words: Bronze Soldier memorial, Estonians in Siberia, migration, stereotypes, identity, adaptation

The article discusses the adaptation process of repatriates, the practical value of ethnic stereotyping and its relation with everyday communication. The paper seeks to answer the question to which extent is the stereotyping process related with biography and the actualisation of stereotypes in specific situations? The analysis is based on interviews with two Estonian repatriates from Siberia following the public unrest related to the relocation of the bronze statue of a Soviet soldier in Tallinn in April 2007.

The author concludes that reciprocal ethnic stereotypes are directly linked to biographical situations, and also to the idea that ethnic stereotypes might be of huge importance in the orientation and identification of a person in a specific biographical situation, while being quite marginal or non-existent in another. Stereotypes are never isolated and are closely related to other cognitive schemes, while shaping people’s attitudes and behaviour. In recent years several studies on the Russian population’s loyalty to Estonia, their willingness to learn the official language, adjust themselves to the cultural and political values in Estonia, and apply for Estonian citizenship have been undertaken. While learning about the population’s orientation, individual self-identification conditioned by a specific biographical situation has to be seriously considered.

The author claims that the use of ethnological methods (dense description, in-depth interviews) may contribute greatly to the study of national stereotypes and, in turn, to the study of national conflicts and xenophobia.

Online Folklore Courses: From Curiosity to Experience

Tiiu Jaago

Key words: tertiary education, e-learning, virtual learning environment, WebCT, folklore teaching methods

There are three types of online folklore courses available at the University of Tartu: e-publications of open access study materials (subject web sites, e-lectures, and e-textbooks), video lectures (e.g., on DVD), virtual e-learning environment with limited access (three main e-learning platforms are used in Estonia: WebCT, Moodle, IVA). In this article I focus on my eight years of experience with WebCT, having worked as a learner, course compiler (including designer) as well as the lecturer.

The need for web-based courses increased together with the growth and the broadened opportunities in the use of WWW. The fact that the web site of Estonian Folklore (www.folklore.ee) already featured a number of electronic databases as well as e-publications introduced the need for the use of these materials in educational work. WebCT enables the user to present material in written and audio format, present lore texts as audio or video recordings or images and thus present web lore in an entirely natural context. Present-day students have grown up in the computer era, which is why searching the Web for material is as natural to them as searching for information in books once was.

At the stage of familiarising myself with WebCT (2000–2002) I put together course materials while the web materials were technologically integrated by Lehti Pilt, education technologist at the University of Tartu. In 2003–2004, I acquired skills of preparing a WebCT course (formulate the subject, determine the e-course structure, consider learning assignments and methods, the use of WebCT devices, etc.) and by 2006 I had developed skills of designing the course, taking part in courses and seminars, compiling courses and carrying these out. This was an active process of acquiring new information which consummated with the introduction of the new version of WebCT in 2006, which for me was a serious setback: I had to do extra technical work at converting the courses from the old version of WebCT to the new one. Regardless of that, WebCT has turned into an equal (though not alternative) work environment to conventional learning (traditional classroom sessions). This, however, is not a common apprehension: students who are not comfortable with computer communication are sure to mention it in formal feedback, while the opposite version (of students officially protesting against traditional learning) is very rare indeed. In informal feedback, however, preferences and objections of both types of learning are proportional. On the one hand, it seems that at its present stage, the students and the general public of the university has accepted the use of WebCT (or other interactive learning environments). This learning environment is nothing extraordinarily new or novel and people are readily willing to join these courses. Many have their own experiences and have formed prejudices. On the other hand, it is not exactly the case in actual discourse: people speak about WebCT as an alternative type of learning, the creation of web-based courses are not perceived as something that a lecturer has to be skilled in, course participants dare to object to the choice of virtual environment (which would not be possible in terms of traditional classroom learning, as this might lead to the question of why they had entered the university in the first place).

On the Land of Eternal Blue Sky

Aado Lintrop

The second part of Aado Lintrop’s travelogue from a visit to the conference on ancient Mongolian religion in Mongolia.

Interview with Ülo Tedre on his 80th birthday

Karin Maria Rooleid, Asta Niinemets

Ülo Tedre is an eminent folklorist and a long-term head of the Department of Folklore at the Estonian Institute of Language and Literature (1962–1991).

News, overviews   

Travels of an Ethnologist: Anu Korb and Her PhD Dissertation on Estonians in Siberia.

On August 28, 2007 Anu Korb defended her PhD thesis on Estonian communities in Siberia as a source for folkloristic research (Siberi eesti kogukonnad folkloristliku uurimisallikana. Dissertationes folkloristicae universitatis Tartuensis, 8. Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus) in the Senate Hall of the University of Tartu. Overview of the thesis defence by Aivar Jürgenson is available in English in volume 37 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore (http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol37/news.pdf).

Conference in Honour of Ülo Tedre’s 80th Birthday

Piret Voolaid reviews the interdisciplinary academic conference From Language to Mind, Vol. 2, held in honour of Ülo Tedre’s 80th birthday held at the Tallinn Institute of Theology on February 20–21, 2008.

PhD Dissertation on Religious Phenomena of Indigenous Ingrians

Ergo-Hart Västrik. Vadjalaste ja isurite usundi kirjeldamine keskajast 20. sajandi esimese pooleni. Alliktekstid, representatsioonid ja tõlgendused. [Description of Votian and Izhorian Religion from the Middle Ages to the First Half of the 20th Century. Sources, Representations and Interpretations] Dissertationes folkloristicae Universitatis Tartuensis 9. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus 2007, 232 pp.

Overview of the thesis by Enn Ernits is available in English in volume 38 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore (www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol38/news.pdf).

Annals of Estonian Agricultural Museum

Eesti Põllumajandusmuuseumi aastaraamat I. Edited by Ell Vahtramäe. Ülenurme: Eesti Põllumajandusmuuseum 2007, 224 pp.

In summer 2007, the first volume of the Annals of Estonian Agricultural Museum was published. The annals publishes articles on various aspects of agriculture and land cultivation, research and education in agriculture, also articles introducing the museum. Articles included in the first volume focus mainly on rural life and culture during the socialist and post-socialist period. Review of the book by Gerd Raassalu, researcher at the Estonian Agricultural Museum.