Webbinarium i Zoom


Om Zoom.


In this talk, I offer an intellectual historical analysis of Nils Erik Hansegård’s theory of semilingualism. Although Hansegård’s writings on semilingualism rank among the most criticized works ever to be written in applied linguistics, the genealogy of Hansegård’s ideas has not been given sufficient attention. Previous attempts at historicizing the concept of semilingualism have noted a family resemblance between Hansegård’s writings and earlier ruminations on linguistic deficit (e.g. Bloomfield on Menominee), but have not scrutinized the conceptual sources and theoretical progenitors of Hansegård’s speculative practice.

Accounting for my on-going research with Linus Salö, I shall outline a critical genealogy of semilingualism, connecting Hansegård’s work to its conceptual roots. An analysis of published texts and archival sources reveals that Hansegård found his primary conceptual grounding in German (pre-WW2) linguistics and Austrian psycholinguistics, notably the works of Georg Schmidt-Rohr, Leo Weisgerber and Friedrich Kainz. While Hansegård’s reception of these Nazi and ex-Nazi authors was mediated by his engagement with post-WW2 research on bilingualism (e.g. Einar Haugen, Uriel Weinreich) and developments in bilingual education (in Wales, in Switzerland), their works had a lasting influence on Hansegård’s thinking. The presence in Hansegård’s writings of these ‘ghosts’ from the uncanny past of linguistics (see Hutton, 2021) gestures at the tensions and political volatility bound up with any metaphysics of the mother tongue. Exploring this terrain, my talk adds a historical lens to the critical debate on the legacy of Hansegård.