Parental discourses of language ideology and linguistic identity in multilingual Finland

Åsa Palviainen, Mari Bergroth

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Finland is officially a bilingual country but it is in practice multilingual. In thecurrent study, we examined how mothers and fathers of mixed-language familieslinguistically identified themselves and others, and how ideological discoursesand concepts historically and socially situated in Finland circulated through theparents’ talk. The parents of three families in which at least Finnish, Swedish andEnglish were used on a daily basis were interviewed. A discourse nexus approachshowed that the concept of ‘mother tongue(s)’ played a central role and thatalthough all family members were in practice multilingual, there was a strongtendency across the couples to identify themselves and others as monolingual.Bilingualism was identified with Finnish-Swedish rather than other languagesand a native discourse expressed bilingual identity as granted by birth rather thanacquired later. The discourses could be traced back to official languageregistration procedures, the educational system in Finland, as well as to parents’own lived experiences. The study illustrates the intricate relationships betweenlanguage ideologies and how linguistic identities are created and performedamong parents, and it pinpoints the need for further studies on how linguisticidentities are passed on to and experienced by children along their lifetrajectories. 

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)262–275
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Linguistic Identity
  • Mixed-language Families
  • Language Ideology
  • Nexus Analysis

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