PhD project: Variation in Finland-Swedish

My doctoral research project examines phonetic and lexical variation in Finland-Swedish, a variety of Swedish that is spoken in Finland. I am specifically interested in how increased language contact between Finnish and Finland-Swedish in the last century is impacting the Finland-Swedish variety which, despite its equal status to Finnish, is in practice a minority language with only 290,000 native speakers.

Phonetic variation

In this article by Strandberg et al. (2021), we investigate phonetic transfer in allophone production of simultaneous Finnish and Finland-Swedish bilinguals. Combining approaches from sociophonetic and bilingual transfer research, the study used acoustic analysis to compare the height and fronting of mid front rounded vowels [øː] and [œː] produced by bilingual and monolingual Finland-Swedish speakers in three different speech styles. The results suggest a potential effect of Finnish transfer on the distinction of the phonetic variants in the speech of simultaneous Finland-Swedish bilinguals, as well as demonstrate the importance of considering speech style in bilingual transfer research.

Lexical variation

Alongside phonetic variation in Finland-Swedish, I also study code-switching and the use of fennicisms (i.e., Finnish loanwords and calques) by native monolingual and bilingual Finland-Swedish speakers. An article discussing a survey study on the use of and attitudes towards fennicisms is currently under review.

Linguistic landscape research

In addition to my doctoral research, I have conducted linguistic landscape (LL) research with a focus on semiotics in marketing and advertisement.

In a 2020 study, I examined how concepts such as “New Nordic” and “Nordic Cool” have led to increased use of writing system mimicry or faux Nordic in international marketing. This study explored how Nordic orthographic features are capitalised on by various brands, showing how Nordic words and graphemes can be used to evoke positive associations that the consumer may have relating to the region (e.g., associations of ‘nature’, ‘simplicity’, or even ‘luxury’).

Presented at the ‘Linguistic Landscapes of Covid-19’ workshop, my most recent LL study analyses the use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a marketing tactic during the Covid–19 pandemic. While some companies have demonstrated CSR by transforming factories to produce ventilators or hand sanitiser, the study argues that increased CSR is also visible in the semiotic landscape. In place of standard advertisement, companies are using creative and often humouristic language alongside visual cues to repeat safety messages put forward by healthcare officials (e.g., to stay at home, practice social distancing, or wear a mask). I argue that these communications function as a form of newsjacking, through which brands make use of topical news stories to gain visibility and develop their public images in times of crisis. The study will feature in a special issue of Linguistic Landscape.