Vesa Heikkinen & Harri Mantila: Kielemme kohtalo [The fate of Finnish]

14 October 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kielemme kohtalo
[The fate of Finnish]
Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2011. 235 p.
ISBN 978-952-495-188-3
€ 32, paperback

This book sets out to examine the reasons behind concerns about the decay of the Finnish language. The authors maintain that linguistic immutability is too often taken to be a synonym for ‘good’ language, even though a living national language is capable of picking up new influences all the time without being in danger of destruction. The factor which the authors consider to be the greatest threat to Finnish is not youth slang, global English, or immigration but Finglish, the practice of using a mixture of Finnish and English, which has become widespread in research, commerce and government. The names of companies and public bodies are changed into opaque English-language abbreviations. Linguists are also concerned by the bureaucratisation of language that is often linked with public-sector reforms. Increasing linguistic inequality is the most serious threat described in this book: in the worst-case scenario, children’s and young people’s poor skills in Finnish could increase the gaps between classes in society and give rise to a growing mass of the excluded alongside an elite who are well-versed in the nuances of the language.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

 

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