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Research networks

Language attitudes, language discrimination

I have been conducting research on language attitudes for about 10 years now. My first study on language attitudes was on the use of the English borrowing pliis 'please' in Finnish. Since then, this general area has come to the forefront of my work. In fact, I see language attitudes, ideologies and language-based discrimination as some of the most important work we as linguists can do--and there is a lot of work to be done. My book, Making Sense of "Bad English," was my major contribution so far in this area of research. I currently have four upcoming book chapters for edited volumes, as well.

  • Peterson, Elizabeth. In publisher review. Colonialism by proxy? The best English speakers in the whitest of places. In Josephine Hoegaarts, Tuire Liimatainen and Elizabeth Peterson, eds. Stories of (de)coloniality, belonging and exchange: Critical perspectives on Finnishness. Helsinki University Press. Expected 2021.

  • Peterson, Elizabeth. In review. Licensing through English. In Simo Määttä and Marika Hall, eds. Ideology and Discourse—Mapping Ideology in Discourse Studies. DeGruyter.

  • Peterson, Elizabeth. "The contrasting values of “Good English” and “Nordic Exceptionalism”. In Alexander Onysko and Peter Siemund, eds. Englishes in a Globalized World: Exploring Contact Effects on Other Languages. Frontiers.

  • Peterson, Elizabeth and Marika Hall. English prescriptivism in Higher Education settings: focus on Nordic Countries. In Joan C. Beal, Morana Lukač and Robin Straaijer, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Prescriptivism.

Foreign language contact with English

Back when I was working on my PhD thesis (published in 2004), I noticed that a couple of people in my interview data used the English word please in the requests they made in Finnish. This raised a really interesting question: Why would people use the word please when they speak Finnish? Why not use a Finnish word? This question eventually led me to research the use of the English borrowing pliis in Finnish, as well as other pragmatic borrowings from English into Finnish. This line of research has become a major component of my overall academic profile, inspiring many students to work on similar topics and prompting my involvement in various research networks. 

Here are a couple of my main publications on this topic. Please contact me for a PDF.

  • Kiitos and pliis: the relationship of native and borrowed politeness markers in Finnish. Co-authored with Johanna Vaattovaara. 2014. Journal of Politeness Research 10:2, 247-269. 

  • The nativization of pragmatic borrowings in remote language contact situations. In Cristiano Furiassi, Gisle Andersen and Biljana Mišić Ilić (eds.) The Pragmatics of Borrowing, Journal of Pragmatics 113, 116-126. 

In 2017, I co-edited a special issue for Journal of Pragmatics with Kristy Beers Fägersten of Södertörns Högskola. The volume, titled Linguistic and Pragmatic Outcomes of Contact with English, contains articles on various European languages in contact with English, focusing on issues such as attitudes, grammatical adaption, and social and pragmatic meanings. The introduction to this special issue is available open access; click here.

Scandinavian Language and Culture in the United States

It was only after moving to Finland and hearing Scandinavian used as a lingua franca that I became intrigued (obsessed, even) by the story of Scandinavian language and culture in Utah, the state where I grew up. Hearing "Scandinavian" used around me in the Nordic countries made me think that a similar situation could have been the norm in some communities in 19th-century Utah, especially Sanpete County, the Utah county with the highest per capita number of Scandinavians migrants.

I have been to Sanpete County five different times (so far) for fieldwork and interviews. I have been privileged to talk about family history, local culture and language with a number of individuals, some who have now passed away. I am incredibly grateful to the residents of Sanpete County for their assistance and interest in my research. It has been begun to feel like a home away from home. 


In addition to media interviews, I have published a few articles on my work on Sanpete County, some for the popular press and some for academic journals. Because I don’t speak Danish, it has been rewarding to collaborate with Danish linguists who are experts in their field: Danish Voices in the Americas (University of Copenhagen).

  • The remains of the Danes: The final stages of language shift in Sanpete County, Utah. 2018. Co-authored with Karoline Kühl. In Journal of Language Contact 11, 208–232. Published open access

  • Coffee and Danish in Sanpete County, Utah: An exploration of food rituals and language shift. 2018. In Jan Heegård Petersen and Karoline Kühl (eds). Selected proceedings of the 8th Workshop on Immigrant Languages in the Americas (WILA 8). Somerville, MA, USA: Cascadilla Press, 80–86. Published open access

  • “We believe that God speaks Danish.” Assimilation vs identity in Sanpete County, Utah. Co-authored with Claus Elholm Andersen. 2015. The Bridge: Journal of the Danish American Heritage Society 38 (1), 13–23.


Sometime in the winter of 2016/2017, my collaborator Johanna Vaattovaara and I turned our attention from the so-called “the magic word,” please, toward a more controversial collection of words, namely swear words. As with our work on pliis in Finnish, our main aim with this project is to try to find out why and how Finnish people use English-sourced swear words in Finnish discourse. After all, it is not like Finnish does not have all sorts of good swear words on its own.

So far, we have one published article as part of this project. Using a modified matched guise technique, we explored the relationship of the English borrowing shit to the domestic Finnish equivalent, paska. The results show that, like our previous work on English borrowings in Finnish, the word shit is associated with the more urbanized southern part of Finland. The article is available as open access.

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