This article describes the role of English in Finland, where English is gaining ground in a variety of domains. While the spread of English has generated debate, little empirical evidence exists on how English is taken up and put to use by Finns, and the functions it serves in its various contexts of use. This article reports on work conducted in a project English voices in Finnish society: uses and functions of English in the media, education and professional life. Combining insights from sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and pragmatics, the project describes the uses of English in language contact situations across the three key domains covered in the project. The objective of the project is to shed light on the diversity and complexity of language choice, alternation and mixed language uses in contact situations and in texts. The focus is on the linguistic choices made, the forms and patterns used and the social functions they serve, and on how the uses of a language can shape and be shaped by more general social and cultural processes and structures. The article shows how English affects domains in Finnish society in a variety of ways, and how the spread of English in Finland can be conceptualised as a phenomenon which emerges at a local level and flows across domains and contexts.
This short paper seeks to reformulate and refine the notion of sociolinguistic scales as relative scope of understandability, thus drawing the notion fully into the realm of semiotics, rather than in the rather unproductive sphere of spatiotemporal and distributional interpretation where it has been deployed. Differences in scope of understandability are differences in the presupposability of signs, and such differences are not equivalent but stratified in a polycentric environment. Scales, in that sense, point towards the non-unified and hierarchical-layered nature of the sign and of meaning making practices. Scalar effects, once established, can furthermore be carried over into different indexical orders deployed on different topics. We draw on the results of a recent study of hip-hop culture in Finland to establish these points.