Language Choice and Ideologies Between Danes and Swedes: in service encounters in Malmö, Sweden

Simone Angelika Holck Lohman

Student thesis: Master thesis


The Scandinavian languages Danish and Swedish are so closely related that they are generally considered mutually intelligible. Thus, one can assume that the language choice is straightforward and, therefore, deserves a minimal amount of attention within organizations. However, Danes and Swedes who communicate face other options than speaking their native languages together. Furthermore, they can apply different accommodation strategies to enhance understanding and successful communication. As such, this thesis seeks to investigate to what extent Danish and Swedish interlocutors use their own language (thus, using receptive multilingualism) versus an alternative language, such as English, as well as which accommodation strategies are used most and why. The study investigates Danes and Swedes in service encounters in Malmö, Sweden, in a shoe shop (Ecco) and a clothing shop (Filippa K). This thesis includes an introduction to communication accommodation theory, which assumes that speakers and listeners seek to adapt to each other in order to enhance understanding and successful communication. Correlations between speaker’s practices and ideologies show that language choice is governed by language ideologies and that the hierarchy of preferences is as follows: 1) receptive multilingualism, i.e. speaking native languages (Danish and Swedish) 2) speaking native languages but combining with additional accommodation strategies such as codeswitching, and 3)speaking English. In order to be able to compare language choice with the underlying ideologies that govern Danes and Swedes’ language choices, the study takes an ethnographic approach and data is gathered through participant observation and informal interviews. The Swedish participants are the shop assistants in the two shops, while the Danish participants are customers visiting the shops in Malmö.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages114