Keywords: Meänkieli, minority language, grammaticography, language contact
Meänkieli is a Finnic language belonging to the Uralic language family. It is spoken in Sweden, where since 2000 it has had the status of an official minority language. Its estimates of the number of speakers range from 20 000 to 75 000. It is closely related to Finnish, and there is a great deal of mutual intelligibility between the two, although Finnish speakers may find it difficult to understand Meänkieli as it has many loanwords and constructions borrowed from Swedish, whilst for Meänkieli speakers Finnish comprehension may be hampered by colloquial Finnish and its standardization, in which Meänkieli did not participate. The prestige of Meänkieli in Sweden has been low, though this has improved since the 2000s, and in Finland it is still often considered a dialect of Finnish. Partly for these reasons much of the research on Meänkieli has been of a sociolinguistic nature, and there has been less research on its grammatical structure.
The present article aims to shed light on a number of grammaticographical problems encountered during the compilation of a descriptive grammar of Meänkieli. These include phonological, morphological, syntactical and lexical issues, whilst also taking into account Swedish (and partly Lule/North Saami) influence, bilingualism, analogical processes and the role played by variation and standardisation. In short, we aim to answer the following questions: What makes Meänkieli unique? Which factors and influences account for its specific features? What makes Meänkieli a challenge from a grammaticographical point of view? What would still need to be done for the compilation of more detailed reference grammar of Meänkieli?
Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi (b. 1979), PhD, Uppsala University, Senior Lecturer of Finnish Language (Thunbergsvägen 3L, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden); University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, Associate Professor of Finnish and Minority Languages, email@example.com
Rogier Blokland (b. 1971), PhD, Uppsala University, Professor of Finno-Ugric Languages (Thunbergsvägen 3L, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden), firstname.lastname@example.org