The birth of the Kven language in Norway: emancipation through state recognition

Pia Lane 1
  • 1 University of Oslo


This article investigates and applies the concept of language emancipation to the situation of the Kven language in Norway. This is done from a historical perspective by addressing the role of language in the ideological construction of the Norwegian nation-state, and from a contemporary perspective through the analysis of the consequences of Norway's ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. This ratification has lead to the recognition of Kven as a language. Through describing the historical development of Norwegian language policy with regard to Kven, this article discusses how this case is an example of nationalist or modernist language emancipation progressing to the contemporary situation where language emancipation processes reflect language policies which are in favor of Kven. This discussion is carried out in the context of current language ideology theory and shows that nationalist language emancipation is being reapplied in the contemporary language emancipation context. This is particularly the situation in the process of the standardization of Kven which, despite the best intentions of those involved, may result in a standard which not all Kven speakers can identify with.

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IJSL is dedicated to the development of the sociology of language as a truly international and interdisciplinary field in which various approaches - theoretical and empirical - supplement and complement each other, contributing thereby to the growth of language-related knowledge, applications, values and sensitivities. The journal features topically-focused issues with individual contributions on small languages and small language communities.