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Project title:
Nýggjar tíðir, ‘nýmælt í føroyskum’ og samfelagsmálvísindi i sambandi við integratión á arbeiðsmarknaðinum: Avbjóðingar og møguleikar

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Project manager:
Elisabeth Holm

Herriot-Watt University

Other participants:
Professor Bernadette O’Rourke, Professor Mike Danson

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Grant from the FRC in DKK:

Project description:
Over the last few decades, contemporary societies have undergone rapid social, cultural and linguistic change brought about by globalization, increased mobility, transnational flows, new technologies and a changing political and economic landscape. These changes have had major implications for the ways in which we conceptualise the relationship between language and society in the twenty-first century. A new communicative order has emerged in which we find new types of speakers, new forms of language and new modes of communication. The Faroe Islands have in recent years experienced a rapid increase in in-migration to the area and a contrasting trend of out-migration among highly educated ‘native’ speakers of Faroese. This study looks at the effect of these processes on the linguistic and cultural landscape in the Faroe Islands. In particular, it looks at the impact of these processes on the use of Faroese as the local language of the islands and amongst “new speakers” of the language as newcomers to the island community. Little is known about the language trajectories or professional experiences of these “new speakers” who as second language speakers of Faroese adopt the language as part of their multilingual repertoire. The acquisition of a new language such as Faroese is essential to the prospects of these newcomers when it comes to integrating into Faroese society and in playing their part in its economic, social, political and artistic life. This study looks systematically at the experience of migrants in acquiring, using and becoming speakers of Faroese. Language is a key component in accessing education, employment, social services and for community participation. However, the processes whereby people learn new languages and become legitimate speakers of these languages are complex. Therefore, a key aim of the project is to examine whether or not language acts as a barrier to the social and economic integration of Faroese speakers of migrant origin.

The project on new speakers of Faroese is part of a broader European discussion which brings together experts from across different multilingual research strands with the aim of providing a holistic response to the inter-linked issues around adopting a new language and becoming a multilingual citizen in a multilingual Europe. The network brings together researchers and practitioners from twenty seven countries, drawing on the expertise of more than 350 well-established, mid-career and early-career researchers. The findings from the Faroese project will feed into a broader body of knowledge being developed by scholars working in the area of multilingualism including Europe’s lesser-used languages, immigrant communities and transnational workers. The Faroese project will also benefit from stakeholder events and consultations with language planning bodies at national and regional levels, educationalists, and public sector workers. There will be sharing of good practice and knowledge on the lessons that can be learned from the Faroese context and what it can learn from other European lesser-used languages.

The theoretical perspectives used in this research project are drawn from the fields of multilingualism, the sociolinguistics of globalization, the study of migration and contemporary social theory relating to mobility. The actual focus of the project is on language and migration in the Faroes. The research will be ethnographic in nature and will trace the migration trajectories of two groups of adult migrants: those long-settled in the Faroes and those who have arrived more recently. Particular attention will be paid to: (1.) language learning, including the learning of Faroese; (2.) the use and value of different language resources and different forms of linguistic capital as the adult migrants seek employment and negotiate access to different domains of Faroese life; (3.) the lived experiences of adult migrants on entering the workplace and the attitudes they encounter, as new speakers of Faroese, in the day to day routines of interactional life at work.

It is anticipated that findings from this research project will contribute to the building of a fuller understanding of the changing sociolinguistic landscape of the Faroe Islands and provide useful outcomes relevant to the management of linguistic diversity from both a policy and research perspective.

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