About "Language and place: Linguistic variation in urban and rural Denmark" – University of Copenhagen

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About the research project "Language and place"

This project investigates how conceptions of, and orientations towards, place correlate with language use of adolescents in the Southern Jutland rural town, Bylderup, and in the Odense district, Vollsmose, on the island of Funen.

Apartment building in Vollsmose. © Idébureau 2+1

In the project, we compare the language uses of local 9th graders. Also, we investigate how conceptions of, and orientations towards, the local place interact with their employment of various linguistic features. In this context, we examine the status of traditional dialects and new language change in times of globalisation and mobility.

Expected results

The project will contribute to the development of theory on language variation and place in sociolinguistics and contemporary dialectology and will serve to develop and test new methods for the investigation of linguistic practices.

We expect the results to show that the linguistic variation and the status of dialects are connected to the speaker's sense of local belonging in more complex ways than previously assumed.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

The interdisciplinary structure of the project will exploit the synergy bewteen sociology, sociolinguistics and dialectology. In a wider perspective, the project will contribute to the ongoing public debate and political discussion on 'marginal areas' and 'ghettos'.

Street sign with the slogan of Bylderup: A good place to live. © Private photo


The project includes several subprojects soon to be described on this page. One focuses on adolescents' entry to the labour market and higher educations and aims to examine if use of dialect and polyethnic youth styles influence the opportunities specified for them.
Read more about the gatekeeping project.

Why Bylderup and Vollsmose?

Greengrocer's shop in Vollsmose. © Ángel Gutierrez

Bylderup is situated in a traditional dialect area where the local dialect is still spoken by the younger generations in certain contexts. Generally, however, we still know too little about how much, how often, with whom and with what effect dialect is being used. In studies of local school 9th graders recordings of language use will be made in various settings including informal meetings among friends and formal situations e.g. future-guidance interviews in school. Read more about the selection of Bylderup.

Vollsmose is a multilingual and multicultural district in Odense (the third largest city in Denmark) situated on the island of Funen. Recent studies in Denmark show adolescents to be capable of mixing the regional spoken language with for instance Arabic and Turkish. Examining the language and behaviour of local 9th-graders, we wish to investigate to which degree - and with which effects - this is done. Read more about the selection of Vollsmose.

Research questions - the major ones

  • What is the status of dialects and regional speech-varieties in the 21st century characterised by globalisation and mobility?
  • Are local language characteristics employed in the formation of locality, identity and sense of place, and in that case how?
  • Do traditional sociolinguistic dichotomies, such as urban vs. rural, and monoethnic vs. multiethnic language communities, make sense in the 21st century? Or are there other dividing lines to count for in the age of mobility?

Research questions - the minor, more concrete ones

  • To which degree are traditional dialect features being combined with new, multiethnolectic features?
  • How does social and geographic orientation influence dialect levelling and language choice?


  • The adolescents of Bylderup and Vollsmose use dialect, local linguistic features, and linguistic youth styles in similar ways, with similar intentions and effects. They just happen to have different features at their disposal.