Bente Svendsen

Bente Svendsen

University of Oslo
Bente Svendsen

Bente Ailin Svendsen is Professor of Second Language Acquisition and Scandinavian Linguistics at the University of Oslo, and Adjunct Professor at the University of South- Eastern Norway. Svendsen initiated and co-developed the Centre for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, a Centre of Excellence funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) (2013–2023). Svendsen has carried out research on multilingual socialisation, competence and use among children and adults, on linguistic practices and identity constructions among young people in multilingual urban settings, as well as on media representations of minoritised language use and purported language users. In the award- winning article, and one of the Journal of Sociolinguistics’ top cited papers in recent publication history, The dynamics of citizen sociolinguistics, she has furthered citizen science in sociolinguistics. Svendsen has comprehensive experience with public communication in a variety of channels, such as media participation in radio and TV programs, videos, Podcasts, and in national, regional and local newspapers and magazines. She was the project leader of the language exhibition Oslo sier. Språk i byen (‘Oslo Says. Language in the City’; documentary made by Anwar Saab) and Språksalongen (‘the Language Lounge’) at the Oslo City Museum (2016–2018).

Talk Information:

Citizen Sociolinguistics: Affordances and Challenges
February 18, 2022 | 9:00 AM

Over the last decade, citizen science (CS), i.e. “participation of nonprofessional contributors in the production of scientific knowledge”, has gained momentum across disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences. CS associations, networks, and labs have been established, and a specialized journal, Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, was launched in 2014. Further, there is an ongoing standardization of CS methods, and various toolkits have been developed. Since 2016, CS is recognized by the European Commission as one out of eight open science priorities, and the United Nations highlights the importance of CS as a way to monitor and achieve the sustainable goals.
In sociolinguistics, the call for an epistemological turn toward greater citizen involvement in research is not new. However, the emergence of CS in sociolinguistics under the banner citizen sociolinguistics is recent. In this paper, I present data on language diversity among young people in Norway from former and ongoing CS projects. I discuss the affordances and challenges of CS in general and of citizen sociolinguistics in particular, focusing on recruitment, ethics, data collection, efficacy and validity. In this discussion, I critically engage with what can be called the recent CS ‘hype’ across scientific disciplines and in research policy programs, and argue that there is a need for studies on the impact of CS, for instance the extent to which CS can lead to empowerment and/or democratization, as it is often stated. Further, I demonstrate that the recent CS paradigm shift, including citizen sociolinguistics, is largely United States– Europe based. Hence, I argue that there is a need to incorporate a global perspective to capture for instance the “myriad ways that people talk about their lived experience of language across the globe in a variety of contexts with varying degrees of online access and literacy, as well as under different political regimes” (cf. Svendsen & Goodchild 2021: 4).

For further reading:

Svendsen, B.A. & S. Goodchild 2021. How We Talk about Language: Exploring Citizen Sociolinguistics. Betsy Rymes, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2020. 201 pp. 1st edition, ISBN: 9781108725965: Pb. Journal of Sociolinguistics.

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