The south in the north

Family multilingualism among some Ethiopian migrants in Sweden


  • Abraham Degu Yeshalem University of Gothenburg
  • Tommaso M. Milani University of Gothenburg
  • Marie Rydenvald University of Gothenburg



accent, family multilingualism, racialized language perception, raciolinguistics, suburban slang


Recently, it has been suggested that the study of family multilingualism could benefit from serious engagement with current discussions about southern and decolonial theories. Against this backdrop, this article draws upon raciolinguistics to investigate whether, and if so how, racialized ideologies of language have been internalized by family members of Ethiopian descent in Sweden in relation to their perceptions of their multilingual repertoire and practices. Specifically, this study examines how speaking accented Swedish and multilingual suburban slang is perceived, valued, and experienced by family members in the home. To this end, the study draws on multimodal research data obtained from three multilingual Ethiopian families living in Sweden. The findings show that racialized ideologies of language have been internalized, inhabited and enacted by family members, as revealed through raciolinguistic policing of what are perceived as immigrant Swedish accents and multilingual suburban slang. Consequently, this study illustrates the complexities and double binds that participating families experience, being caught between raciolinguistic ideologies that devalue speaking other than the idealized standard Swedish on the one hand, and attempts to maintain Amharic on the other. The ambivalences experienced by these families have implications for family multilingualism research on pockets of the south in the north.

Author Biographies

  • Abraham Degu Yeshalem, University of Gothenburg

    Abraham Degu Yeshalem is undertaking a Ph.D. in multilingualism and Swedish as a second language at the University of Gothenburg. The focus of his research is family language policy in Ethiopian migrant families in Sweden. He is particularly interested in discourse, language ideology, raciolinguistics and family multilingualism.

  • Tommaso M. Milani, University of Gothenburg

    Tommaso M. Milani is Professor of Multilingualism at the University of Gothenburg and Visiting Professor of Linguistics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His research interests include language policy, language ideology and language, gender and sexuality. He has written extensively on these topics in international journals and edited volumes.

  • Marie Rydenvald, University of Gothenburg

    Marie Rydenvald is a Senior Lecturer in Swedish as a second language and Director of Studies for Teacher Education in Swedish as a second language in the Department of Swedish, Multilingualism, Language Technology at the University of Gothenburg. Her research interests include multilingual language use, identity and multilingualism in international and national education.


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How to Cite

Yeshalem, A. D., Milani, T. M., & Rydenvald, M. (2024). The south in the north: Family multilingualism among some Ethiopian migrants in Sweden. Journal of Multilingual Theories and Practices, 4(2), 179-200.