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Workplace multilingualism in shifting contexts: A historical case

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 October 2017

Florian Hiss*
UiT–The Arctic University of Norway
Address for correspondence: Florian Hiss, Department of Language and Culture, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, UiT–The Arctic University of


This article investigates linguistic diversity, migration, and labour in the case of a nineteenth-century copper mine in the multilingual northern periphery of Norway. Taking a historical perspective on workplace multilingualism, it reveals the dynamic relationships between the economic interests and policy-making of an industrial enterprise and the political and sociolinguistic development in a multilingual region, at a time when national authorities introduced assimilation policies. Owned and managed by British industrialists, the mine recruited almost exclusively migrant workers to a remote fjord in the Norwegian periphery, many of them Kven from northern Finland and Sweden. In a multi-layered approach, the study sketches multilingual work practices, policy-making, and the discursive positioning of diversity, and explores the company's management of the relationships between capital, community, and nation-state. It reveals the company's flexible approach towards diversity governed by economic interest. (Workplace multilingualism, mining, Kven, Norway, historical)*

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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I would like to thank the Research Council of Norway (SAMKUL) for funding this research.



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