Overcoming silence: language emancipation in a coastal Sámi-Norwegian community


  • Åse Mette Johansen The Arctic University of Norway




Coastal Sámi, Norwegianisation, Revitalisation, Language Ideologies, Generation Gap, Muted Groups


This article examines the complexity of language emancipatory processes at the micro level in a small coastal Sámi-Norwegian community in Northern Norway. The local context of Olmmáivággi/Manndalen is characterised both by former Norwegianisation (1850–1950) and by ongoing revitalisation (1980–today). The analysis sheds light on the ways in which individuals living in Manndalen experience the historically changing and somewhat contradictory concept of language emancipation. The data presented are taken from interviews with two women who represent the extremes of a four-generational process covering the development from language shift towards language revitalisation. Their diverging accounts of these processes are discussed on the background of the historical transition from understanding Norwegianisation as language emancipation towards defining revitalisation as the same. In drawing attention to the speaker, the article seeks to deepen the understanding of the multifaceted history and reality in which micro-level language choices are embedded, and furthermore to emphasise that the most fundamental level of language emancipation is the level of individual language users: Languages are not in the need of emancipation; speakers are.

Author Biography

Åse Mette Johansen, The Arctic University of Norway

Åse Mette Johansen is a Ph.D. Student in Nordic Languages at the Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway. Her research interests include different aspects of language and culture contact in traditionally Sámi and Kve areas in Northern Norway. She has studied language shift and language revitalisation at the micro level in her home village, and is currently working on a thesis on the social meaning of contact-induced variation and change in spoken Norwegian in the same community.



How to Cite

Johansen, Åse M. (2013). Overcoming silence: language emancipation in a coastal Sámi-Norwegian community. Sociolinguistic Studies, 7(1-2), 57–77. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.v7i1-2.57