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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

Reclaiming Sámi languages: indigenous language emancipation from East to West

  • Torkel Rasmussen and John Shaun Nolan


The indigenous Sámi languages of the Nordic countries and North-West Russia have gained official recognition after a long period of neglect and assimilation policies. In the context of positive changes in state or macro level indigenous policy and especially that regarding language policy, this paper investigates what subsequently happens at the grassroots or micro level. This investigation shows that despite more positive policies, there is a strong sentiment of defeatism with regard to Sámi. Sámi speakers face problems because of the lack of implementation of nationally decided laws at the local level, they encounter prejudice and neglect from other people, even in their families, and as a result they often experience difficulty in transmitting Sámi to their children. Nevertheless, they also express belief in Sámi and feel a need for this transmission, not only for affective reasons and for the sake of cultural maintenance, but also for instrumental reasons, i.e. to give their children better opportunities in the labor market where knowledge of Sámi is necessary.


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