Over the fence – and into English? Reflections on adolescents, academics, linguistic development and language policy in Norway in the early 2000s

Dag F. Simonsen

Abstract



After a discussion of recent language-policy developments in the Scandinavian countries, and of the domain loss theory saying English may displace Scandinavian languages in crucial sectors of society, a model is sketched that links the progress of English to people’s free choices, presupposing (1) bilingualism in the national language and English, (2) arenas where real choices are possible and (3) motives for preferring English. This model is applied to youth language and academic language in Norway, on the basis of recent research. In both cases, there has been an increase in people’s competence in English as well as in the number of arenas and motives for using English. As for the adolescents, in spite of the strongly positive symbolic value they ascribe to English, there are few indications that they are really dropping Norwegian, whereas academics tend to use English more, both in publishing and in other discipline-related activities. Finally the author reflects upon the consequences that should be drawn in relation to language policy. Youth marks a period of freedom, and Norwegian adolescents’ use of language doesn’t necessarily forebode a transition into English, and so should be stimulated rather than limited. Contrary to this, academic language use is already governed by regulations, and may be further regulated, if necessary by law, so as to promote parallel use of Norwegian and English at the universities.

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