Language policies: instruments in cultural development and well-being

Article English OPEN
Winsa, Birger (2005)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v64i2.17970
  • Subject: cultural production, ethnicity, language policy, minority language, social capital, wellbeing

Objectives. To measure social capital in one multilingual region of northern Sweden. Earlier studies have neglected the language aspect of social capital development. To map cultural production (song, literature, theatre) in Meänkieli, Finnish, Saami and Swedish in the Swedish Torne Valley. Methods. Statistical comparison of regions. Cultural statistics from electronic libraries are related to language policies, density of voluntary associations, unemployment, sickness and life expectancy. Lists of voluntary associations from municipality authorities. Study design. The multilingual region contains five municipalities which are related to each other. Two monolingual regions are cited as references for the study: Finnish Torne Valley and parts of county Västerbotten. Results. Pajala has the best institutionalisation of the former vernacular Meänkieli. Saami gains best institutional support in Kiruna. Gällivare has the weakest interest to maintain any minority language, whereas Haparanda promotes Finnish in education and administration. Övertorneå has some interest in Finnish and Meänkieli. Cultural production corresponds with the institutionalisation of Meänkieli and Saami and develops best in Pajala and Kiruna. Haparanda and especially Gällivare have weak cultural activities in Meänkieli, Finnish, Saami and Swedish. Finnish is a common, formal, administrative language in Haparanda, but is only occasionally used in cultural domains. However, the monolingual regions have higher cultural production and seem to have denser networks of voluntary associations. Since the 1980s, the cultural index is highest in the multilingual region. Conclusions. Former discriminative language policies have, most likely, hamperered development of the civil society in the multilingual region, which has seemingly had an influence on unemployment and well-being. The monolingual region has less unemployment, (earlier) better health and better life expectancy for males. There are, however, indications that the revitalisation of the minority language effects positively on socio-economic conditions.(Int J Circumpolar Health 2005; 64(2):170-183)Keywords: cultural production, ethnicity, language policy, minority language, social capital, wellbeing
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