International Web Community for Scandinavian Studies

Conference Programme

Back to All Events

Ida Tolgensbakk, University of Oslo

Audible minorities

– the joy and pain of Scandinavian language mixing

  • Name: Ida Tolgensbakk
  • Academic credentials: PhD Cultural History 2015 from University of Oslo. Researcher at NOVA, Centre for Welfare and Labour Research, Oslo and Akershus University College

Abstract: English as lingua franca in the Scandinavian countries has long been the scenario dreaded by scholars, teachers and politicians in our countries. Research has shown that mutual intelligibility of our languages is declining, and that especially teens choose English when meeting other youth from the neighbouring nations. Linguists and Nordists alike have lamented the perceived loss of Nordic language community.

However, this is not the complete story, and there is light on the horizon. One aspect is the upsurge in mass media phenomena such as Nordic Noir and the ever-present Swedish pop – or the surprise of the Norwegian TV series Skam. Another is intra-Nordic migration changing the youth scene in several Scandinavian cities during the last decades.

How do Swedish and Danish migrants to Norway navigate linguistically in their new lives? What is obvious is that English is out of the question, other than as a crutch helping in the occasional tight spot. When living in Norway, Danish and Swedish youth use their mother tongue, adding Norwegian words and idioms as needed. Svorsk(a) and Dorsk are the colloquial terms for these intra-Nordic linguistic concoctions. I will show both how it is done, and what the Svorsk/Dorsk speakers themselves feel about the language mixture. On the one hand, they are grateful and happy not having to learn a completely new language. On the other hand, their accents make them stand out from the Norwegian majority, making them forever an audible minority.

Theme: The Dynamics of Nordic Linguistics