Making linguistic choices at a Sámi University: negotiating visions and demands

Journal article by Jorunn Simonsen Thingnes in Current Issues in Language Planning, published online October 4, 2019.

Journal cover


Sámi University of Applied Sciences (SUAS) in Norway is one of few institutions of higher education worldwide that mainly operates in an Indigenous language. According to the institution’s vision, Indigenous peoples’ values stand at the centre, and the Sámi language is heard and read daily. However, as an academic institution operating nationally and internationally, SUAS faces numerous expectations and demands that challenge its vision and language policy. This paper investigates how linguistic choices made for publications reflect SUAS’ vision and the academic communities the institution is a part of.

Drawing on policy documents, observation and interviews with staff and students, the paper shows how linguistic choices are influenced by discourses that circulate in different academic communities: local, national, international and Indigenous. It further shows how the language practices are shaped by and occur in the intersection of agency and structure. For the Sámi language to persist and develop, staff must publish in Sámi. Yet, there is a demand – and partly a wish – to also publish in English and Norwegian. The strategy for SUAS’ staff is to maintain a diverse language practice. Additionally, this study indicates that Norwegian national language policies do provide some supportive structures for revitalisation of Sámi.

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Published Oct. 18, 2019 8:42 AM - Last modified Oct. 18, 2019 8:42 AM