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Literacy in Sapmi:
multilingualism, revitalization and literacy development in the global north

Research project The project investigates the tri-lingual situation for children and teenagers in North Sapmi where three languages are used daily. The project is being carried our in Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Literacy, the ability to read and write, is recognized not only as a right per se but also as a mechanism for the pursuit of other human rights and participation. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people recommended in 2011, the redoubling of efforts to revitalize Sami languages and cultures. This project focuses on North Sami writing in school. The pupils, who are between 9 and 18 years of age, will write in three languages: North Sami, the national language, i.e. Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish, and English. The pupil’s language use outside of school, globalization and school politics are further aspects of study within the project.

Project overview

Project period

2012-01-01 2114-12-31

Funding

Finansår , 2012, 2013, 2014

huvudman: Umeå University / Department of Language Studies, finansiar: Projektbidrag/ Vetenskapsrådet, utbildningsvetenskaplig, y2012: 2300000, y2013: 1250000, y2014: 1250000,

Research subject

Language studies, Modern languages, Political science, Sami studies

Project description

Literacy is recognized not only as a right per se but also as a mechanism for the pursuit of other human rights and participation. On 12 01 2011 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people recommended, “that the Nordic States and the Sami parliaments cooperate to redouble efforts to revitalize Sami languages and strengthen programmes for education in Sami languages and culture.” (p. 21) No research has specifically focused on the literacy development of North Sami children from Norway, Sweden and Finland, or on the impact on literacy of the institutional differences between these three countries’ educational policies towards Sami education.

This project will investigate the context, institutional and societal, for literacy development for North Sami children between the ages of 9 and 18 and examine these children’s writing development in North Sami, the national language (Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish depending upon where in Sapmi, the area traditionally inhabited by the Sami, the child lives), and the global language English, that due to globalization has become compulsory element of the school curriculum.

Building on previous keystroke logging studies conducted by the team over the past decade, keystroke logging will be coupled with interviews, surveys and language diaries. The outcomes of the project will not only describe writing development among North Sami speaking children and their literacy landscape, but also inform the policy for the continued revitalization of North Sami and culturally relevant programmes for literacy education for North Sami children at the point of linguistic tension between the indigenous and national as part of a globalized society across Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Sapmi.

Our research questions are:
• What process variables can be identified that characterise North Sami children’s writing processes in the three languages in the school context?
• What differences can be identified in terms of linguistic complexity, genre awareness and cultural presentation in the texts written in the school context?
• How does the linguistic and cultural landscape interact with North Sami children’s writing processes and products in the three languages when writing in the school context?
• What impact do extralinguistic variables have on North Sami children’s writing processes and products in the school context?
• How do the investigated elements vary between the children growing up and being educated in Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Sapmi and what does this say about the provision of teaching with Sami language?
• How does globalization and educational governance interact with North Sami children’s literacy development and usage, and with culturally relevant education?