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American Norwegian and Heritage Linguistics (completed)

The Norwegian emigration to America lasted for about a hundred years, up until 1920, and for this period, more than 800,000 Norwegians travelled to the US and Canada. The Norwegians settled down in rural areas and often close to other countrymen.

This background ensured that the Norwegian language was kept alive for generation on generation, up until today. The fact that this language has been living its own life ever since, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, makes it interesting from a number of perspectives.

Alexander Lykke interviews an elderly participant.
Alexander Lykke (right) interviews participant.

Research questions

To what degree is the language different from Norwegian in Norway? We consider all aspects interesting in this regard: phonological system, vocabulary, inflections, and word order, together with semantics and pragmatics.

Further, we ask how come the language is in its current form. There are several possible factors here, and all of them should be explored: social factors (including family, school, and society), cognitive factors (memory, processing, etc.), linguistic factors (grammatical system, frequency of different linguistic units, from general types of sentences to phonetic elements).

Research methods

The most important empirical method for the Norwegian language in America is the recording of conversations, preferably transcribed and available, such as in CANS (Corpus of American Nordic Speech) (Johannessen 2015). Different elicitation methods have also been used, such as processing tasks, picture tasks, and translation tasks, inlcuding eye-tracking.


Conferences: The WILA (Workshop for immigrant languages in the Americas) workshop series, co-organized by Janne Bondi Johannessen, is an annual meeting, and the eighth workshop was held in Copenhagen in May 2017. Previous workshops have been held in Athens (GA), Uppsala (Sweden), Los Angeles (UCLA), Reykjavik (Iceland), Penn State University (PA), Gudbrandsdalen (Norway), and Madison (WI). 

Fieldwork: There have been several larger and smaller fieldworks (link in Norwegian) in the US and in Canada.


  1. Language Attrition (UiO)
  2. Norwegian in America (including fieldwork and development of Corpus of American Norwegian Speech)
Janne Bondi Johannessen with two elderly participants.
Janne Bondi Johannessen with two participants.

Participants and collaborations

Researchers at University of Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø, and Østfold University College have been involved with the fieldwork, presented papers at the WILA conferences, and published in common books and journals (see especially Johannessen & Salmons (eds.) 2015). Research milieus for heritance languages in America have also been created in Sweden, Denmark, and on Iceland.


Janne Bondi Johannessen (initiator, fieldwork organizer, and co-coordinator of the WILA conference series)


PhD Fellows (affiliated): Yvonne Van Baal and Alexander Lykke

Principal Engineer Linn Iren Sjånes Rødvand

Arnstein Hjelde (in Norwegian) (HiØ), affiliated

Ida Larsson (UiO), affiliated

Marit Westergaard, UiT, MultiLing collaborator

Joe Salmons (UW-Madison), affiliated

Mike Putnam (PSU), affiliated




2010–2012 financed by the Research Council of Norway

2013– local university financing



Johannessen, Janne Bondi and Joseph Salmons (eds.). 2015. Germanic heritage languages in North America: Acquisition, attrition and change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi and Joseph Salmons (eds.). 2012. Special issue on Norwegian Language in America: Norsk Lingvistisk Tidsskrift, 2, 2012, 261 p.

Journal articles

Johannessen, Janne Bondi & Ida Larsson. To appear. Stability and change in grammatical gender: pronouns in Heritage Scandinavian. Journal of Language Contact 12.1. Special issue on Heritage Languages in North America: Formal Linguistic Approaches.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi & Signe Laake. 2017. Lexical evidence for the emergence of an American Norwegian dialect. In Journal of Language Contact 10:2.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi and Ida Larsson. 2015. Complexity Matters: On Gender Agreement in Heritage Scandinavian. Frontiers in Psychology. 

Book chapters

Hjelde, Arnstein og Janne Bondi Johannessen. 2017. Amerikanorsk: Orda vitner om kontakt mellom folk. I Terje Mikael Hasle Joranger (red.): Norwegian-American Essays 2017. Oslo: Novus Forlag, s. 257–282.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2015(a). Attrition in an American Norwegian heritage language speaker. In Johannessen and Salmons (eds.):  Germanic heritage languages in North America: Acquisition, attrition and change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 46–71. 

Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2015(b). The Corpus of American Norwegian Speech (CANS). In Béata Megyesi (ed.): Proceedings of the 20th Nordic Conference of Computational Linguistics, NODALIDA 2015, May 11–13, 2015, Vilnius, Lithuania. NEALT Proceedings Series 23.
Download the article.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi; Salmons, Joseph C. 2015. The study of Germanic heritage languages in the Americas.  In Johannessen and Salmons (eds.): Germanic heritage languages in North America: Acquisition, attrition and change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1–20. 

Johannessen, Janne Bondi; Laake, Signe. 2015. On two myths of the Norwegian language in America: Is it old-fashioned? Is it approaching the written Bokmål standard?. In Johannessen and Salmons (eds.):  Germanic heritage languages in North America: Acquisition, attrition and change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 299–322. 

Larsson, Ida and Janne Bondi Johannessen. 2015. Embedded word order in Heritage Scandinavian. In Hilpert, Martin, Jan-Ola Östman, Christine Mertzlufft, Michael Riessler and Janet Duke (eds.): New trends in Nordic and General Linguistics. Berlin: De Guyter, 239–266.

Larsson, Ida; Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2015. Incomplete Acquisition and Verb Placement in Heritage Scandinavian. In Page, Richard S; Putnam, Michael T. (eds.): Moribund Germanic Heritage Languages in North America: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Findings. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 153–189. 

Tags: Multilingual competence, Multilingual language practices, Multilingual ideologies and language policies
Published Dec. 8, 2013 10:43 PM - Last modified Aug. 31, 2022 11:07 AM


Janne Bondi Johannessen


Detailed list of participants