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The Social Status of Languages in Finland and Lithuania

A Plurimethodological Empirical Survey on Language Climate Change


Edited By Stephan Kessler and Marko Pantermöller

Finland and Lithuania stand for different ways of dealing with societal multilingualism and minority issues. However, in recent years, questions of language policy had been discussed more controversially in both countries. Thus our detailed surveys on Finland and Lithuania focused on how different population groups think about the lingual situation there. This publication presents the researchers’ results from between 2014 and 2016 regarding the attitudes towards the minority and majority languages. Key to the research was an especially developed methodological mixture, including the matched-guise technique. The surveys’ final reports to the German Research Foundation (DFG) are followed by contributions that give more details on the legal status of the languages in Finland and Lithuania or describe the specific features of urban multilingualism there.

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Editors’ Preface


For both Finland and Lithuania, there is already a well-established tradition in sociolinguistics of dealing with the language situation and policies of the respective countries. There is no shortage of related social-empirical surveys and above all, the social de facto-status of languages—i.e. the attitudes of the population towards majority and minority languages (i.e. Finnish or Swedish in Finland, and Lithuanian, Polish or Russian in Lithuania)—has also been the subject of investigation. However, since we found that these attitudes have not been surveyed either by indirect methods only or by a combination of direct and indirect methods, we were able to obtain funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) for the years 2014–2016 to conduct a survey to correct this diagnosed deficiency. We want to thank the German Research Foundation for the trust placed in our project.

Our survey investigated the social status de facto, which language speakers in Finland and Lithuania assess as most prestigious. Both countries have similarities in that their inhabitants are highly respectful of their languages and aim for politically correct behaviour according to language policy. Therefore, in addition to language status, statements made about the everyday life of the state’s language policies were also collected from the subjects of the survey. Judgments, from within each society, about the social effects of these linguistic/political measures are, to some extent, entirely different from official lines. The wide-ranging survey intends to give the opportunity to compare both countries using parallelism of the...

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