Danes and Danish in Utah

I grew up in Utah, but it was only after moving to Finland and hearing Scandinavian used as a lingua franca that I started to become interested in the Scandinavian language history of Utah. When I heard Scandinavian being used around me in Helsinki, it made me think that a similar situation could have been the norm in some communities in 19th-century Utah, especially Sanpete County, where the highest per capita of Scandinavians migrated. I am still not sure if this was the case, but it has been fun to try and find out.

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.

  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1163/19552629-01102003. Published open access https://brill.com/view/journals/jlc/11/2/article-p208_208.xml
  • 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 http://www.lingref.com/cpp/wila/8/
  • “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.

Published by Elizabeth Peterson

Linguist. University Lecturer at the University of Helsinki.

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