Scandinavian Languages was established as an academic field of research and education through professorships in Lund 1858 and Uppsala 1859. Professorships in Swedish followed soon after (in Uppsala 1881), but judging from the published work of these professors, their interest differed little from that of their colleagues: Scandinavian linguistics aimed at finding the very source of the Scandinavian Languages, and to map the genealogy of Nordic culture. Along with international structuralistic influences in the early 1990’s, an interest in the synchronic language system slowly grew stronger, but the tradition of searching for roots and origins remains. Later, different fields of application (school teaching, language planning etc.) have called for new and different knowledge, which has challenged and partly changed the traditional identity of the core discipline. 

Based on studies on the publications of chair professors in Uppsala, Lund, Stockholm and Gothenburg, my colleague Per Holmberg and I explore the role of different conceptions and narratives of the nation for establishing and legitimising the study of Swedish and Scandinavian Languages at different times. In this talk, I will use a model of national myths (inspired by Åström Elmersjö 2013) to discuss what might explain the emergence of new perspectives and sub-disciplines in different points in the history.


Åström Elmersjö, Henrik 2013: Norden, nationen och historien. Perspektiv på föreningarna Nordens historieläroboksrevision 1919–1972. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.



Anna-Malin Karlsson is professor of Swedish language, especially sociolinguistics, at the Department of Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University in Sweden, since 2012. Between 2008 and 2012 she was professor of modern Swedish at Södertörn University. She received her Ph.D. in Scandinavian Languages at Stockholm University in 2002, for a study of multimodality and text conceptions among young Internet users.

Her main areas of interest are discourse analysis, social semiotics, multimodality and linguistic ethnography. Her current research concerns literacy practices and communication in institutional settings. She is the leader of the project Health Literacy and Knowledge-formation in the Information Society, which investigates communication practices emerging from a pre-natal diagnosis of congenital heart disease.

In earlier research projects she has studied literacy practices in working life, with a special focus on non-academic occupations. She often combines ethnographic approaches to communication with discourse analysis, informed by systemic functional linguistics and theories of dialogicity and multimodality.