University of Oulu

Hippi, K. & Lehto, L. (2023). Seeking understanding: categories of linguistic (non)belonging in interviews. Multilingua.

Seeking understanding : categories of linguistic (non)belonging in interviews

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Author: Hippi, Kaarina1,2; Lehto, Liisa-Maria1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: De Gruyter, 2023
Publish Date: 2024-01-11


This paper discusses how persons of multicultural backgrounds describe in interviews their everyday experiences when using Finnish. The focus is on categories of linguistic (non)belonging described in interview interactions. The data consist of 23 single and pair interviews of 33 informants in total and come from two interview datasets. Data are analyzed discursively, taking into account positions and identities constructed in interviews. First, the study concentrates on descriptions where the informants’ interlocutors (particularly customer service persons) switched to English and the interviewees assumed reasons for it. Secondly, the recounted experiences where multiculturals have received comments on their Finnish language use are examined. According to the informants, language choices and evaluations arise from the perception of difference by the interactant. When language choice is discussed, categorizations of the informants as non-Finnish speakers arise. When the focus is on received comments, the informants discuss the categorizations of non-nativeness and origins. The informants position themselves in relation to these categories: They discuss the motivations and conditions for them. The study takes a closer look at how, in the interviews, there is space to criticize linguistic practices contrary to many everyday situations. The study brings to light the informants’ interpretations of switching language and commenting on one’s language as well as underlying ideologies of these situations, thereby also bringing about the possibility for change. The descriptions are multilevel, and we discuss how the categories of identification are constructed and how they are perceived in the interviews.

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Series: Multilingua
ISSN: 0167-8507
ISSN-E: 1613-3684
ISSN-L: 0167-8507
Volume: In press
DOI: 10.1515/multi-2022-0049
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 6121 Languages
Funding: This study was funded by the Academy of Finland project Linguistic and Bodily Involvement in Multicultural Interactions [under Grant no. 324060].
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 324060
Detailed Information: 324060 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Dataset 1 belongs to the University of Oulu Kikosa Collection, which was reviewed and approved by The University of Oulu Ethics Committee of Human Sciences on 17/10/2018. The Kikosa Collection consists of video-recorded everyday interactions among multicultural families and groups of friends. The collection is housed at the University of Oulu Department of Languages and Literature, and it can be used for studies of language and interaction. Dataset 2 is part of the collection of A hundred Finnish linguistic life stories. It is housed at the University of Helsinki Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian studies and will also be stored at the Language Bank of Finland. An ethical review was not required prior to collecting the data. The University of Helsinki Ethical Review Board in Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences has provided a description of the ethical review system for research in Finland concerning the dataset and it is available by request.
Copyright information: © 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston