“Language is the fingerprint of soul.” North-Fennoskandian and Romanian Finno-Ugric Minority Language Narratives Used in Identity Building

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa Campus, Martti Ahtisaari lectur hall (L2)

Topic of the dissertation

“Language is the fingerprint of soul.” North-Fennoskandian and Romanian Finno-Ugric Minority Language Narratives Used in Identity Building

Doctoral candidate

PhD Enikő Molnár-Bodrogi

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Research Unit of Languages and Literature

Subject of study

Finnish language


Docent Magdolna Kovács, University of Helsinki, Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, Hungarian language and culture


professor Jari Sivonen, University of Oulu, Research Unit of Languages and Literature, Finnish language

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What kind of narratives are language minorities’ identity built of?

This thesis for the doctor’s degree investigates what kinds of narratives build up the identity of those writers, editors and teachers who belong to language and ethnic minorities and who actively and regularly use their minority language. One of the main results of this research is the fact that a minority language can be revitalized and developed only if it is given priority in a multilingual environment and if it is bravely used in several contexts. On the basis of their written texts, the object of this comparison are three North-Fennoskandian minorities: Meänkieli, Kven and Sámi, as well as two Hungarian minorities living in Romania: the Transilvanian Hungarians and the Csángós. Particular focus is laid upon the Meänkieli language and Bengt Pohjanen’s work.

The thesis contains an introductory study and five – previously already published – peer-reviewed studies. The research material consists of printed media- and literary texts, being analysed in the context of the minority language- and cultural policy. The sources are examined within the framework of three theories: narrative research, discourse analysis and language ideology research. As the research method is concerned, it uses the method of socially contextualizing close reading.

As their political, historical and cultural background is concerned, the examined minorities differ a lot, as do their language narratives. As the most important common narratives, the followings can be mentioned: without knowing your own minority language the essence of your own culture cannot be understood; multilingualism means profuseness, still your own minority language should have a special place as part of your cultural legacy; many a time, school is the place of language loss; there often is a close connection between religion and language; the awareness of the importance of your own language helps in preserving, revitalizing and further developing the language. In this respect, the language planning is of utmost importance. The research also concludes that there is a surprising number of similarities in the language narratives of the Transilvanian Hungarians and those of Bengt Pohjanen.

By applying the results of this research, practical strategies can be developed, strategies that may contribute to assuring the future, as well as the social prestige of minority languages.
Last updated: 23.1.2024