Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Exceptional Musical Ability within a Framework of Metalinguistical Ideologies about Swedish Language

Exceptional Musical Ability within a Framework of Metalinguistical Ideologies about Swedish Language

Anton Anderssen

Swedes are known for their exceptional contributions to the music industry. Unattributed anecdotal evidence suggests that the tonal quality of the Swedish language may influence musical abilities in Swedes.

This research includes original ethnographic inquiry. Semi-structured interviews are conducted to gain access to cultural beliefs about tonality, not facts about the way tonality actually works.

The research found that Swedes attribute their exceptional musical ability to an exceptional educational system, not to the Swedish language. Additionally, the research uncovered the metalinguistic ideology that Norwegians sound “merrier” when speaking their closely related Scandinavian language.

A literature review uncovered the process by which Swedish became a tonal language, unlike the Scandinavian Danish or Icelandic, and that the phenomenon arose in Sweden after Finland, Iceland, and Denmark were settled. Thus, Icelandic, Finn-Swedish, and Danish are not tonal. Further literary review revealed the process of sound switching is known in other languages, such as in English, where sounds were changed upon disappearance of the last phonemes – hence, mouses became mice, gooses became geese, cows became kine, jinnies became jinn, et cetera.

The study can serve as a foundation for future research about the metalinguistic belief that Norwegian sounds “merrier” than Swedish. This could be examined in context with other sociological factors, like a far higher standard of living in Norway than Sweden.

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April 23, 2010 - Posted by | abstract

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