Reviewed by Nanna Haug Hilton, University of York
Språkdannelse og -stabilisering i møtet mellom kvensk og norsk is the publication of Hilde Sollid’s doctoral thesis on language contact in a multicultural area of northern Norway. The community investigated, Sappen, has traditionally been a point of contact for three languages: Saami, Kvensk (a dialect of Finnish found in northern Norway), and Norwegian. The book deals with the contact between the latter two.
In the beginning of the nineteenth century the most widely spoken language in Sappen was Kvensk. Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, however, the Norwegian state instituted a policy of ‘Norwegianization’ (fornorsking), which aimed to assimilate Saami and Kvensk speakers culturally and linguistically into mainstream Norwegian society. S argues that this policy led directly to processes of language shift whereby many communities in northern Norway changed from being bi- or trilingual to becoming monolingual in Norwegian. This is also the case for Sappen, which today is nearly completely monolingual in Norwegian.
Nevertheless, S argues that Kvensk has left its mark on the local variety of Norwegian through borrowing. In particular, she describes certain features of the local dialect found in Finnish but absent from other varieties of Norwegian. S argues that these features were borrowed from Kvensk, in a process of change consisting of two stages: a ‘creation phase’ (dannelsefase) and ‘stabilization phase’ (stabiliseringsfase).
S proposes that the creation phase began around 1900 when schools started teaching in Norwegian only. The dialect was then formed by the Kvensk second-language speakers of Norwegian and their children. Based on apparent-time speech data and grammaticality-judgment data from informants born around 1920, the author argues that the dialect in its creation phase exhibited a variety of features absent from varieties of Norwegian not in contact with Finnish. Drawing on theories of creolization and language acquisition, S argues that these speakers used Kvensk as a resource when learning Norwegian, and that syntactic structures and functional categories from Kvensk were thereby incorporated into the local Norwegian.
In its subsequent stabilization phase, Sappen Norwegian has undergone a process of leveling, according to the author. Speech data and grammaticality-judgment data show that the younger the informants are, the more likely they are to reject structures not found in Standard Norwegian. Seen in a bigger picture, these data suggest that the dialect is becoming increasingly similar to other dialects in the northern region of Norway. S points out, however, that the reason for leveling is not as much regionalization as youngsters’ greater contact with Norwegian through media and new migrants to Sappen. As S notes, these social changes also have consequences for language shift: younger generations increasingly encounter Norwegian more than Kvensk in their daily life, which further imperils intergenerational transmission of Kvensk.