Identities in Transition


Identities in Transition. A longitudinal study of language shift in a Kven community

This is the first real-time longitudinal study of language shift of a community, and the project will examine changes in identity construction in Bugøynes, a Kven community undergoing language shift by comparing and contrasting interview data from the same individuals from 1975 and today. This approach contrasts with the existing literature on language shift as the project is a real-time longitudinal study of language shift, unlike previous studies which are retrospective apparent time analyses.

Norway has often been described as a monolingual homogenous country. There is a tendency to regard the multicultural Norway as a modern phenomenon, but the northernmost parts of Norway have been a contact area for centuries, the groups in contact being Norwegians, Sámi and Kven. The Norwegian nation building process during the 19th century was characterised by the idea of "one language - one nation", and the minorities in the north went through a period of linguistic and cultural oppression. These policies, often referred to as "the Norwegianisation process" were abandoned in the 1960s, though the effects lingered for decades afterwards. The impact of these policies on the level of communities and individuals still requires further investigation.

Studies of language shift tend to be retrospective as minority language speakers are interviewed at a point in time when the shift has progressed quite far. Also, due to the lack of data from a point in time in the past, usually it is not possible to do a real time study of language shift. The existing data from Bugøynes provide a unique opportunity to do a longitudinal analysis and thus study the process of language shift and identity construction over time.

Project publications

Lane, Pia (in press). ”We did what we thought was best for our children”. A Nexus Analysis of language shift. I: Scales of multilingualism: Towards a multi-layered analysis of linguistic diversity. Temanummer av International Journal of the Sociology of Language.

Lane, Pia (in press). The birth of the Kven language in Norway. Emancipation through state recognition. I: Language Emancipation. Temanummer av International Journal of the Sociology of Language.

Lane, Pia (in press). Norsk språkpolitikk og nasjonale minoriteter. I: Kvener og skogfinner i fortid og nåtid. Tromsø: Speculum Boreale nr. 9. Skriftserie frå Institutt for historie

Lane, Pia (2009). Mediated national language policy: a case of citizenship categorization in Norwegian media. In: Media, multilingualism and language regimes. Temanummer av Language Policy; 8.(3) pp. 209-225

Principal investigator

Dr. Pia Lane
Post doctoral research fellow
University of Oslo
Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies



Project members

  • Pia Lane
  • Aappo Salo (project assistant)
  • Sine Halkjelsvik Bjordal (project assistant)

The project cooperates with the Text Laboratory at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo, and assist with the technical aspects of data management and corpus development and maintenance: http://www.hf.uio.no/tekstlab/English/index.html