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State categories, state vision and vernacular woes in Sweden’s language politics
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
2017 (English)In: Language Policy, ISSN 1568-4555, E-ISSN 1573-1863Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

This article deals with the politics of classification in contemporary Sweden. It analyses the language political dispute that has developed over the language political regulation of Övdalsk, a non-standard form of Scandinavian spoken in Älvdalen in northern central Sweden. The analysis focuses on the ways in which a discursive exchange over metalinguistic categories contributes to the efficacy of a state vision of linguistic divisions. In the wake of Sweden’s ratification of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (ECRML), and the language political reforms in which the ratification was embedded, Övdalsk has emerged as a contentious issue. Over three decades (1990s–2010s), the question of what Övdalsk ‘is’—a ‘language’, a ‘dialect’ or something else—has surged repeatedly in political, public and scholarly deliberations (i.e. in expert reports, in policy documents and in scientific publications). Nevertheless, the interests placed in this muddled taxonomic issue have not yet been subjected to any sociolinguistic analysis. Drawing on Bourdieu’s work on the state, the article attends to the ways in which the exchange over Övdalsk has paid tribute to an increasingly entrenched symbolic order. Commenting on Sweden’s commitment to the ECRML more generally, the article accounts for how and why an officialised vision of linguistic division has been rendered symbolically effective. Accordingly, the article argues that a sensitisation to the forms of tacit agreement that underwrite contention is a suitable lens for grasping the maintenance of a political order as legitimate and effective.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Bourdieu, Classification, European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (ECRML), Language ideology, Övdalsk, Sweden
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145602DOI: 10.1007/s10993-017-9439-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-145602DiVA: diva2:1131133
Available from: 2017-08-11 Created: 2017-08-11 Last updated: 2017-08-16
In thesis
1. Authentic Language: Övdalsk, metapragmatic exchange and the margins of Sweden’s linguistic market
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Authentic Language: Övdalsk, metapragmatic exchange and the margins of Sweden’s linguistic market
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This compilation thesis engages with practices that in some way place stakes in the social existence of Övdalsk (also älvdalska, Elfdalian, Övdalian), a marginal form of Scandinavian used mainly in Sweden’s Älvdalen municipality. The practices at hand range from early 20th century descriptive dialectology and contemporary lay-linguistics to language advocacy and language political debate. The four studies focus on the logic by which such practices operate, on the historically produced visions that they bring into play, as well as on the symbolic effects that they have produced. Study I provides a zoomed-out account of the ordering of Övdalsk in Sweden’s linguistic market. Focusing on a relatively recent debate over the institutional regimentation of Övdalsk, it analyses the forms of agreement upon which the exchange in question has come to rest. The contention has mainly developed over the classification of Övdalsk, percolating in the question of whether Övdalsk ‘is’ a ‘language’ or a ‘dialect’. Analysing this debate, the study takes interest in the relationship between state power and metapragmatic exchange. Study II deals with the history of linguistic thought and research on Övdalsk. It analyses the genesis of some durable visions of the relationship between Övdalsk and linguistic authenticity, focusing on the research practice of the Swedish dialectologist Lars Levander (1883–1950), whose work on Övdalsk commands representative authority to this day. By engaging with Levander’s techniques of scholarly objectivation, as well as with their language theoretical fundaments, the study seeks to create some perspectives on, and distance to, the canonical representations of Övdalsk that have precipitated from Levander’s research. Study III looks into the reuse and reordering of such representations. It provides an ethnographic account of a metapragmatically saturated exchange over Övdalsk grammar, in which descriptivist artefacts play an important part. Through an analysis of texts, in situ interaction, and interviews, the study seeks to grasp the ways in which textual renditions of grammar interrelate with practically sustained, socially recognized models of language and language use (i.e. registers). Study IV tracks the ways in which such visions of authenticity have been drawn into institutionally and politically invested metapragmatic exchanges. It looks into a process of naming of roads in Älvdalen, in which ideas about the contrast between Swedish and Övdalsk played a central part. In all studies, various visions of Övdalsk authenticity and authentic Övdalsk constitute a central theme. The thesis maintains that such visions must be understood in relation to the practices in which they hold currency. Following Silverstein, this epistemological stance entails an engagement with the dialectic between historical formations and situated exchange. Through this analytical orientation, the studies seek to account for the visions of authenticity that have been at the forefront of various symbolic struggles over Övdalsk. Thus, in addition to their respective analytical accounts, the separate studies seek to add shifting temporal horizons to the superordinate heuristic, combining a deep historical backdrop with accounts of protracted institutional processes and analyses of situated linguistic interaction. Ultimately, this mode of analysis provides an in-depth understanding of the object of inquiry.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Stockholm University, 2017. 88 p.
Series
Dissertations in Bilingualism, ISSN 1400-5921 ; 28
Keyword
authenticity, history of linguistic thought, indexicality, linguistic anthropology, linguistic minorities, metalanguage, metapragmatics, philosophical anthropology, Övdalsk, autenticitet, filosofisk antropologi, indexikalitet, lingvistisk antropologi, metaspråk, metapragmatik, språkliga minoriteter, språkvetenskapens idéhistoria, älvdalska
National Category
Languages and Literature General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145642 (URN)978-91-7649-946-7 (ISBN)978-91-7649-947-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-09-28, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted.

Available from: 2017-09-05 Created: 2017-08-15 Last updated: 2017-08-28Bibliographically approved

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