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  • The English Language in Finland: Tool of Modernity or Tool of Coloniality?

    Elizabeth Peterson

    Chapter from the book: Hoegaerts, J et al. 2022. Finnishness, Whiteness and Coloniality.


    English is the dominant lingua franca of the modern world, used by an estimated 1.5 billion people (Peterson 2020; 2 billion people according to MacKenzie 2018). The ubiquity of English is in large part due to its colonial history, which resulted in extreme pluricentricity (Clyne 1992). English is also the world’s most commonly taught foreign language, for example in places like Finland, where the majority population claims to be proficient in English (Leppänen, Nikula and Kääntä 2008). By some measures, the “best” non-native speakers of English are the Nordic populations, including Finland (European Commission 2012). Contemporary ideologies of the Nordic countries, Finland included, are at odds with the linguistic attitudes and discrimination that are a composite component of English. That is, Nordic countries value ideologies of equality (Keskinen, Skaptadóttir and Toivanen 2019), yet the English language is known to reflect social biases and to perpetuate social inequality based on race, economic status and gender (Lippi-Green 2012; Milroy and Milroy 1999). How then, does the use of English play out in a setting like Finland? Does English perpetuate Nordic values of equality, or colonial values of whiteness and elitism? The chapter explores these notions through the lens of the Extra and Intra-territorial Force Model (Buschfeld and Kautzsch 2017), a model designed to apply to non-postcolonial settings of English.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Peterson, E. 2022. The English Language in Finland: Tool of Modernity or Tool of Coloniality?. In: Hoegaerts, J et al (eds.), Finnishness, Whiteness and Coloniality. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-17-11

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Aug. 22, 2022


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