Multilingualism Research Forum/Flerspråklighetsforum: For ein språkaktivist det kan jo mange vera: theoretical reflections on ethnographies of Nynorsk, Catalan and Scots language activism

James Konrad Puchowski (PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh) will share theoretical reflections on ethnographies of Nynorsk, Catalan and Scots language activism. 


James Puchowski smiling and wearing a patterned sweater
James Puchowski

In theories of language variation, change and shift, language activism and language activists have been assigned various theoretical definitions in order to position the contributive role of various social actors. At times, these definitions appear to either essentialise language activists with a range of more prescriptive definitions, so as to distinguish them from other actors such as politicians and academics, whereas other attempts to define language activism theoretically are intentionally vague. Through my ethnographic research—primarily amongst Nynorsk activists, but extended to Catalan and Scots—I propose an alternative perspective which underlines who has the potential to engage in metadiscourse and language ideological conflict, and how conceptualised boundaries between activists and other social actors are often, and necessarily, blurred. My reflections and arguments should lead to an open debate for sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists alike: is "language activism/activist” an even useful term for linguists in the first place? 


James Konrad Puchowski is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, and Lecturer (Teaching) in Norwegian at University College London. He completed his MA (Hons.) in 2017 and wrote an MSc by Research dissertation in 2018 on Nynorsk language activism and the work of Norsk Målungdom. His PhD thesis is a collection of three articles, examining each a case of language activism in Catalonia, Norway and Scotland. He is a linguistic ethnographer focusing on language activism as social discourse, and uses content analyses and metapragmatic frameworks throughout his research.

An active Nynorsk-user and former member of Studentmållaget i Oslo, he has has written several articles for, Aftenposten and Klassekampen. His first peer-reviewed paper was released this year in the Journal of Postcolonial Linguistics on his research in Catalonia with ’non-native’ activists. His second article, on Nynorsk activism, is currently under review at the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 

Aside from his academic work, James is the Co-convenor of the Council of the Scottish Green Party, has a home library of over 600 books, and owns three vintage typewriters. 

Published May 3, 2022 2:33 PM - Last modified May 20, 2022 2:57 PM