Discourse uses and functions of English and other ‘foreign’ codes in Finnish football discussion fora on the web

Samu Mikael Kytölä

University of Jyväskylä, Finland


The sociolinguistic situation of Finland is facing a partial, gradual shift due to the major, multi-layered spread of English. Finns are now using English for a variety of purposes in a rapidly growing number of different domains, in several different registers. Besides numerous ‘intercultural’ uses of English, several contexts have been recently analyzed where English is used in ‘intracultural’ communication between Finnish-speaking Finns. Particularly interesting are the linguistic practices of ‘subcultural’ or ‘lifestyle’ communities on the Web, where native Finnish writers deploy English along with, and instead of, their first language. (Leppänen 2007.)

This presentation gives an overview of my PhD work (in progress) on the supersentential discourse uses and functions of English at Finland-based online football discussion fora. Other languages than English, registers and variants of languages, other semiotic means than ‘languages’ as well as various hybrid forms found in the data are also presented and analyzed, since the extent and nature of the uses of 'English' can best be understood in comparison with those of other 'codes'. Moreover, the multilingual, polyphonic, multimodal and hybrid data arguably lend themselves to a comprehensive analysis of multilingualism where not just ‘Finnish’ and ‘English’ alternate or mix.

Moreover, the presentation comprises current research problems, early research findings, and intriguing data samples that aptly illustrate the connections between the “infinite small” (Blommaert 2005) micro-levels and the “infinitely big” (Blommaert 2005) macro-levels of context simultaneously at stake within fragments of communication. I shall show how communication events (or more precisely from the analyst’s point of view: their written/visual outcomes that one can access in a discussion forum) are thoroughly influenced by the global and local (e.g. Finnish) histories of football as well as the discussants’ shared and personal histories, language and ethno-social ideologies, and (lack of) access to the different resources that comprise their communicative and socio-pragmatic repertoires at the micro-site of engagement.

Methodologically, my research draws from several lines of research: studies of code-switching and code alternation, particularly in computer-mediated communication (CMC, e.g. Androutsopoulos 2007a; Hinrichs 2006), sociolinguistics, and ethnographically informed (e.g. Georgakopoulou 2006) discourse analysis of highly context-dependent and densely situated language-in-use (e.g. Blommaert 2005). Arguably such an eclectic framework facilitates a holistic, non-deterministic, non-reductionist understanding of the highly multi-layered and volatile phenomena in focus. As Georgakopoulou (2006) argues, however, the development of suitable, specifically applied frameworks for understanding the sociolinguistics of CMC is still underway: more different online genres and contexts need to be studied to enhance our understanding of it.


Androutsopoulos, Jannis K. (2007a). Language choice and code-switching in German-based diasporic web forums. In Danet, Brenda and Susan C. Herring (eds.), The multilingual internet. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Blommaert, Jan (2005). Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2006). ”Postscript: Computer-mediated communication in sociolinguistics”. In Journal of Sociolinguistics 10/4, 2006: 548-557.

Hinrichs, Lars (2006). Codeswitching on the Web. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Leppänen, Sirpa (2007). Youth language in media contexts: some insights into the functions of English in Finland. In World Englishes, May 2007, vol.26 (2), pp.149-169.

Session: POSTERS: Focus on interaction, discourse, media, professional settings
Friday, April 4, 2008, 12:45-15:45
room: foyer