1. 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. In Strandberg and Gooskens (2022), we discuss the ideological and practical issues surrounding the two national languages of Finland, exploring how increasing bilingualism and frequent translanguaging in Finland-Swedish communities may lead to phonetic and lexical changes in the Finland-Swedish variety.

1.1 Phonetic variation: allophones [øː] and [œː]

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.

1.2 Phonetic variation: the /eː–ɛː/ merger

The second phonetic study (Strandberg et al., in press) investigates regional and stylistic variation in the merger of front vowels /eː/ and /ɛː/ in Finland-Swedish. While often cited in literature, this merger has seldom been quantitatively demonstrated. This study examines the merger by comparing formant data from 141 speakers from four Swedish-speaking regions in Finland. The results, which indicate that speakers from mainland Finland demonstrate significantly different formant values for the two vowels, challenge the assumption of a complete /eː–ɛː/ merger in Finland-Swedish. The article detailing the study is currently in press for publication in Language Variation and Change.

1.3 Lexical variation

In Strandberg et al. (2022), I study code-switching and the use of fennicisms (i.e., Finnish loanwords and calques) by native monolingual and bilingual Finland-Swedish speakers. Fennicisms are often discussed in context of Finnish influence and consequent Finland-Swedish language loss, suggesting that the use of these features in Swedish is stigmatised. In a pilot study, survey responses from 126 Finland-Swedish individuals were examined to investigate the use of and perceptions regarding fennicisms. The results indicate that although finlandisms and, in particular, fennicisms are often seen as erroneous, they can also be used to indicate a uniquely Finland Swedish linguistic identity.

2. Other projects: 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.

2.1 Nordic Cool and writing system mimicry

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’).

2.2 CSR and newsjacking during the COVID-19 pandemic

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.