“I know the language … So use it!” – Managing responsibilities in a research interview


Friday 8 November, 14.30-15.00, E0105

The study focuses on a Sámi-Norwegian bilingual speaker's engagement in building up his position and negotiating language revitalisation activities during a research interview. 
In the last decades, the informant’s local Sámi community has experienced a widespread engagement in Sámi linguistic and cultural revitalisation. But in spite of a successful vitalisation of Sámi culture, linguistic revitalisation only proceeds in small steps. The ongoing complex process is primarily managed through linguistic interaction. 

The analysis of personal and common attitudes and engagement within the ongoing revitalisation process focuses on several aspects of meaning making: the speaker’s own and others' responsibility for the maintenance and revitalisation of Sámi is negotiated and linguistically construed in relation to roles (the interviewee and others within the community, the researcher and the informant as insider, outsider, recipients, actors, etc.), identities (ethnic, local, etc.) and attitudes. The analysis shows how the speaker employs different linguistic means in order to justify and underline the importance of his decision to use the formerly stigmatised Sámi language in the community and to claim moral support for ways of action that he sees fit in the local sociolinguistic situation. Narrative is employed as an artful and elaborate means to exemplify, negotiate and emotionally underline the importance of the interviewee's own action and his motivation to use the Sámi language. Through his performance of a narrative, he points out parallels between a dramatically performed 3rd person story, his and the community's life situation, and even the interview setting. This strategy lets his conclusion “I knew the language … So use it!” implicitly sound like a general maxim of action with a more universal claim of moral validity. 

When we take into account the setting and the goal of the conversation as a research interview, we receive an amazing picture of the ongoing linguistic interaction. The analysis shows how the interviewee draws upon the whole situation's meaning making resources in order to underpin his ideas (e.g. interacting with the presence of the tape recorder: “You can record it on tape. It’s not more than that.”). Using the possibilities and resources of both storytelling and the research interview as a genre, the informant cunningly also appeals to the responsibility of both the researcher and science in general.