On the carnivalization of Swedish in Finnsih football forums

Samu Kytölä
Jyväskylän yliopisto
samu.kytola _arvaa_ jyu.fi

This presentation explores ‘carnivalistic’ (Bakhtin 1984) usages of Swedish by Finns on Finland-based online football forums from an interactional-sociolinguistic viewpoint. The analysis utilizes my data pool of online football discussions (Futisforum and Futisforum2; Kytölä 2013) where features of Swedish are introduced to discussions on Finnish football, whether as a topic-induced or metaphorical/symbolic choice.

In contrast to these forums’ more ‘genuinely’ bilingual discussion threads concerning the Swedish-speaking football world, I here highlight such ‘carnivalistic’ occasions where Finnish participants deploy resources from Swedish for purposes of playfulness, mockery, appropriation and (dis)affiliation. These jocular usages draw on obscenities, sexually explicit vocabulary, (deliberate or non-deliberate) utilization of non-Standard Swedish syntax or spelling, and cultural ‘camp’ references to old school textbooks (as part of a collective memory of learning a language with possibly limited usefulness outside the schooling domain). These interactional excerpts often ironically index their writers’ own limited competence in Swedish, turning to overt metapragmatic discussions on the ever-contested position of Swedish in the political, educational and cultural constellation of Finland.

The indexical values attached and ascribed to Swedish vary in concordance with the identity play, self-presentation and performance by football fans who position themselves in relation to categories of belonging, ownership and fandom.

This seems arguably an under-researched type of Finns’ Swedish use. With the hybridity, ambivalence and a sense of linguistic and cultural appropriation evident in these forum discourses, I argue for a nuanced intermediary position between the loud extremes that are hegemonic in public and lay discourse about Swedish in Finland.



Bakhtin, Mikhail (1984 [1963/1929]). Problems of Dostoevsky's poetics. Ed. and transl. by Caryl Emerson.

Kytölä, Samu (2013). Multilingual language use and metapragmatic reflexivity in Finnish online football forums: a study in the sociolinguistics of globalization.


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