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Jan Lindström

Jan Krister Lindström
Born April 4, 1964, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1990 (Scandinavian languages), Licentiate 1993 and PhD 1999, University of Helsinki

Teaching assistant, Scandinavian languages, 2002-04, acting professor 2005, 2007-08, professor 2008–, University of Helsinki
Vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts 2010-13, University of Helsinki
Director of the Faculty for Scandinavian Languages and Literature 2006-09, University of Helsinki
Research doctor 2002-05, the Samtalsspråkets grammatik – Grammar in Conversation project, University of Helsinki (Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences)
Linguistics working group member 1998, Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Research themes:
Interactional linguistics, language contact and Fenno-Swedish, construction grammar, language policy

Oskar Öflund Foundation award 2012
Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland prize for academic monographs 2009
Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland prize for doctoral dissertations 2000

Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
Written by Jan Lindström (Tomas Sjöblom ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Variational Pragmatics and Pluricentric Languages

I am a professor of Scandinavian languages, as the field is traditionally known. In fact, professors in the field usually specialise in the Scandinavian language of their country. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian professors mainly all study their respective languages—and in Finland it is commonly Swedish, as it is our second national language. The Swedish language is therefore my primary research interest, but I have also studied our national variety, Fenno-Swedish.

Many of the languages in the world are pluricentric, meaning they are spoken in more than one country. Europe alone has several examples of such languages, such as English, French, German and Swedish. But do people converse in the same manner in different countries if they speak the same language? Or is there variation in communication patterns? In the research programme Interaktion och variation i pluricentriska språk (IVIP), funded for the years 2013 to 2020 by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences), we study and compare communication in conversations under similar conditions in Sweden and Finland, particularly in the service, education and health sectors. The programme also aims to develop the theory behind pluricentric language research at an international level. By applying theories and methods from conversation analysis and ethnography of communication, the programme can explore and explain pluricentric language phenomena that previous research has not really been able to address. In this manner the programme is participating in the development of what is termed variational pragmatics, while at the same time we are collecting new information on what is unique in Fenno-Swedish—and Standard Swedish—conversations.

Studying interactional linguistics and variational pragmatics within pluricentric languages may be the key to understanding the complex relationships between language, culture and nationality. In particular, concentrating on the Swedish language will provide a new perspective for research in the field, Swedish having a somewhat unique status in Finland: it is a non-dominant language variety (compared to the Swedish spoken in Sweden), and the same time it enjoys the status of an official language although it is only spoken by a small minority of the population. Furthermore, it is more generally important that the results of studies into “smaller” pluricentric languages are considered when developing the theory for research in the field.

Jan Lindström is also an avid skier. Photo by Leena Lindström.


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