The Language Youth: A sociolinguistic and ethnographic study of contemporary Norwegian Nynorsk language activism (2015-16, 2018)
Puchowski, James Konrad
Nynorsk is one of two codified orthographies of the Norwegian language (along with Bokmål) used by around 15% of the Norwegian population. Originating out of a linguistic project by Ivar Aasen following Norway’s separation from Denmark and ratification of a Norwegian Constitution in 1814, the history of Nynorsk in civil society has been marked by its association with "language activist" organisations which have to-date been examined from historiographical perspectives (Bucken-Knapp 2003, Puzey 2011). This study, in contrast, observes this movement synchronically by describing the activities of young Nynorsk activists in the Norwegian Language Youth (NMU, Norsk Målungdom) using ethnographic methods between 2015-16 and again in January 2018. By observing firsthand, and reviewing events and discourses in their socio-political context – examining the behaviour of activists in NMU in reference to their interactions with the media and the public – this project creates an analytical "thick description" (McCarty 2015) of present-day Nynorsk language activism. This project critically reviews current-day definitions of language activism, arguing that more nuanced and less essentialised definitions would benefit how linguists account for how such activities vary across different locales, communities and social contexts. In response to calls to diverge away from nation-state, policy-specific top-down perspectives in language policy and management (Linn 2010), the project evaluates linguistic behaviour bottom-up, following the research aims of a "socially constituted" linguistics (Bell 2016); language users are studied in order to account for how linguistic discourse and the development of language attitudes/ideologies act as vital actors in sociolinguistic variation and change.