Sami on the move: fusing ethnographic and discourse analysis for investigating language mobilities

Sari Pietikäinen

University of Jyväskylä, Finland

WS152: Scales of Multilingualism: Towards a multi-layered analysis of linguistic diversity

Globalisation transcends localities, resulting in the reorganisation of existing relations and in the creation of new forms of actions. In a multilingual Lapland, globalisation processes have various sociolinguistic effects. A good example of these is a change in the functions and values of the indigenous Sami languages.

The once solid community languages were pushed in the margins of the nation states in the early 20th century. Since then the Sami languages have, however, moved into new environments of education, politics, and identity construction. Currently, they are finding their ways into new spaces of popular culture, media, and tourism. Today, Sami linguistic and other semiotic resources are used not only for communication and building an indigenous community, but they function also as a commodity in global music markets and tourism, or as a resource for creative identity performance. This kind of a sociolinguistic change calls for an investigation that overcomes the macro-micro gap and concepts that address movements, diversity and multiplicity in this multilingual situation.

To this end, I fuse ethnographic and discourse analytical approaches in an attempt to track movements and conditions of Sami resource mobility. More particularly, I explore the potential usefulness of concepts of scale, nexus and discourses in the examination of polycentric, multilayered Sami mobility (cf. Blommaert 2007, Heller 2007, Scollon & Scollon 2004). Analytically, the specific sites of movements can be seen as a nexus of various scales and discourses reconfigurating the values and functions of the Sami languages. The data discussed in this paper comprises of multimodal discourse data (photographs, interviews, texts) and observations and recordings from ethnographic fieldwork in Lapland. The data comes from an on-going research project on multilingualism in the North Calotte area examining discourses, practices and experiences of linguistic diversity in contexts of tourism, media, education and everyday life (


Blommaert, J. (2007). Sociolinguistic scales. Intercultural pragmatics 4-1 (2007), 1-19.

Heller, M. (2007). Bilingualism as ideology and practice. In M. Heller (ed.), Bilingualism: a social approach. (pp. 1-24).Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Scollon, R. & Scollon, S. W. (2004). Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet. London: Routledge.

Session: Workshop
Scales of Multilingualism: Towards a multi-layered analysis of linguistic diversity
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 17