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"Det språk som skrifves af alla svenskar, hvilka icke kunna skrifva": Om skollärarare John Chronschough och språkhistorien
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Scandinavian Languages.
2015 (Swedish)In: Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskaps-Samfundet i Uppsala: Årsbok 2014 / [ed] Merja Kytö, Uppsala: Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskaps-Samfundet i Uppsala , 2015, 89-112 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

August Bondeson’s novel The Memoirs of the Schoolteacher John Chronschough (in two volumes, 1897 and 1904) belongs to the classics of Swedish literature. The main reason for its fame is that it is conceived to exactly depict “the language which is written by all Swedes who cannot write” as a contemporary critic put it. This is the language of members of the new groups in society who had to acquire a language suitable for public use as a result of the democratization of Sweden during the latter half of the 19th century and who in the course of that process in many ways shaped today’s standard Swedish.

This article describes the sociolinguistic situation in Sweden during the former turn of the century, and analyzes the language of the novel against this background. It is shown that – contrary to the common conception – it is a rather fine-tuned pastiche and not a grotesque parody. The fact that it still has had a widespread reputation for being a perfect imitation of “bad Swedish” implies that during this period there were clear notions regarding what was to be considered stylistically appropriate and inappropriate and also that many actually wrote in the way that was supposed to be wrong. Probably, such a situation primarily arises when new groups are entering into domains previously reserved for more privileged members of society who take for granted they have the right to define what is correct, proper and good. Then it is also logical that many linguistic phenomena have a clear shibboleth function: to distinguish “us” and “them” is both important and easy – members of the former standard-setting groups have a very clear idea of what is stigmatized.

One of the major features of the development of Swedish during the 20th century has been a diminishing distinction between speech and writing, with pronunciation becoming more dependent on the written form, and the written language syntactically becoming less complex. It is obvious that this development is connected to the social transformation that forms the setting of The Memoirs of the Schoolteacher John Chronschough. Although it can hardly be said that the language of John Chronschough in terms of exact linguistic form has become the standard Swedish of today, it is clear that the stylistic patterns of persons such as Chronschough have been formative for today’s Swedish and its register variation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskaps-Samfundet i Uppsala , 2015. 89-112 p.
, Årsbok / Kungl. Humanistiska vetenskaps-samfundet i Uppsala, ISSN 0349-0416
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-287343ISBN: 9789198240511OAI: diva2:922579
Available from: 2016-04-23 Created: 2016-04-23 Last updated: 2016-10-13Bibliographically approved

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Melander, Björn
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