Working Papers in
Urban Language &
Regimenting academic discourse:
as an equivocal remedy for
(KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm )
Regimenting academic discourse:
Additional-language summaries as an equivocal remedy
for Anglophone science
Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment,
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.
The dominance of English in scientific production raises issues in relation to
certain responsibilities of Swedish universities, linked to the dissemination of
knowledge and the development of the Swedish language. In light of this, the
current paper deals with Swedish-language summaries (SLSs) in English-language
doctoral theses. It treats the SLS as an instrument of language regimentation,
deliberately aimed at limiting the near-total dominance of English. Drawing on
language policy documents at the national and university level, along with
scholarly accounts and interview data, the paper discusses the SLS as conceived
by advocates in language policy and planning, university policymakers, and
practitioners, that is, active researchers. It is shown that the SLS is aimed at
counteracting negative effects pertaining to knowledge outreach as well as register
formation. I argue that there is a contradiction between these two aims: on the one
hand, an SLS that is simple enough to bridge the gap between science and society
is not likely to contribute to expanding advanced registers of Swedish; on the other
hand, an SLS that takes seriously the task of expanding Swedish registers will be
unintelligible for the wider audience. Yet, it may still serve as a reminder that
languages other than English are worthy of consideration and use.
In recent decades, English seems to have fortified its position as the go-to language of
globalizing academia (e.g., Lillis & Curry 2010). This circumstance poses challenges to
higher education institutions (HEIs) in Northern Europe and elsewhere beyond the
Anglophone world: despite their internationalizing pursuit, they must live up to various
responsibilities on their home ground vis-à-vis the societies that enable their presence. This
tension is salient in the states that make up the Nordic region (e.g., Hultgren et al. 2014;
Saarinen 2017). With few exceptions, the HEIs that are here are publicly funded, and the
knowledge markets of the societies that surround and sustain them operate chiefly through
state-backed national languages. Thus, a parallel language strategy is called for (see Holmen
It follows that this tension is readily visible in Swedish academia. Here, English
permeates most disciplinary fields: nine out of ten doctoral theses are written in English (Salö
2010), and English is equally prominent across other genres of scientific production (e.g.,
Kuteeva 2015; Salö & Josephson 2014). While this situation seems to be in line with Swedish
research policy and the trust it places in ‘internationalization’ as a prerequisite of research
quality and impact, it nevertheless rests uneasily with a number of legally stipulated
responsibilities of the higher education (HE) sector, pertaining both to knowledge
dissemination and language development. Consequently, in the Swedish field of language
planning and policy (LPP), the prevalence of English has spawned a metadiscursive debate
on negative foreseeable effects on the Swedish language and its speakers. Since the early
1990s, LPP agents – language planning institutions, individual language planners and
scholars alike – have raised two kinds of critical question: 1) how will research findings reach
out to ‘the man on the street’? And 2) how can Swedish remain an effective means of
scientific communication? It has been argued that, firstly, the lack of Swedish is a democratic
issue, since the sole use of English prevents general public access to advanced research
findings. Secondly, the relative non-occurrence of Swedish in scientific writing hinders the
development of terminology and other features of advanced registers.
Various LPP agents have stressed that the inclusion of a Swedish-language summary
(henceforth SLS) in doctoral theses written in other languages can ward off some of the
problems allegedly caused by English-language prevalence. This proposition has been
received as a reasonable compromise in the scientific field, and the language policies of most
HEIs currently demand SLSs in theses written in languages other than Swedish. They seem to
be doing so, however, without a firm understanding of the precise objectives underpinning
the policy intervention at hand. There is a general ambiguity – and sometimes dissonance –
surrounding the very purpose of SLSs and, accordingly, the specific language policies that
enforce it. In this light, the present paper sets out to explore how the SLS has been envisioned
by differentially positioned stakeholders – LPP agents, scholars, policy makers, and so forth –
united by their common stakes in the issue at hand. Prospectively, dwelling upon the Swedish
case might expand the knowledge base on additional-language summaries in academic
contexts and the steering rationales behind them. A subsidiary aim is to compile the rather
sparse literature that exists on these matters in Sweden, which may prove useful in
forthcoming policy discussions and empirical investigations.
In this paper, the SLS is understood as being part and parcel of the practice of language
regimentation – that is, of governing the production of knowledge and the linguistic resources
used for such ends (Kroskrity 2000b). In the context discussed here, such attempts are
materialized as a feature of locally imposed language policy interventions, designed to
retrench the near-conclusive dominance of English in scientific production. Empirically, the
paper examines various forms of understanding of the SLS as conceived from the viewpoint
of those who regiment – advocates and policy-makers – as well as those whose writing
practices are being regimented – practitioners. By advocates I refer mainly to LPP agents but
also to agents of other fields who have expressed their views of the necessity and justification
for imposing this particular language-regimenting intervention. By policy-makers I refer
mostly to HEIs and those involved in crafting and subsequently imposing local language
policies. By practitioners I refer to active researchers. Congruently, the material analyzed is
three-pronged and encompasses 1) central documents of national LPP alongside scholarly
accounts that have dwelled on the importance and rationale of including SLSs; 2) 17
language policy documents imposed by Swedish HEIs, which contain statements on SLSs;
and 3) primary data in the form of interview accounts with active researchers.
2. Towards a sociolinguistics of Swedish academia
In recent years, the balance of powers between Swedish and English has materialized into a
many-sided object of scholarly inquiry (see, e.g., Salö 2016). As part of this growing body of
work, attention has been drawn to university language policy from various perspectives.
Some of these studies are report-like mappings that include different forms of content
analyses. An early analysis of this kind was presented by Jansson (2007), at a time when only
University of Gothenburg had such a policy. This study has since been followed up by similar
initiatives, often from the viewpoint of Swedish or Scandinavian LPP (e.g., Karlsson 2017;
Salö 2010; Salö & Josephson 2014). There are also studies that have sought to tease out
underlying ideologies in university policy documents (e.g., Björkman 2014; Soler, Björkman
& Kuteeva 2017) or focused on their discursive processes of becoming (Källkvist & Hult
Despite the recent interest in university language policy, the literature on SLSs is scant.
Indeed, the matter has been commented upon in various policy analyses (e.g., Falk 2001; Salö
& Josephson 2014; Karlsson 2017), but it has seldom been featured as an object in its own
right. Yet, a few minor studies exist. Josephson (2015) presents a sample study of the SLS
genre, focusing mostly on the hybrid understandings surrounding it, and Cimbritz (2014)
explores the role of concepts in SLSs more specifically. Salö and Hanell (2014) address the
question of SLSs when dealing with scholarly scientific writing practices.
In pursuit of a comprehensive framework, I make use here of a combination of two
distinct traditions of scholarly thought, deriving from the sociology of knowledge, on the one
hand, and linguistic anthropology, on the other. As a way of assembling these two traditions,
I invoke the notion of ‘responsibility’ as a lynchpin for contemplating different kinds of
rationales attached to the SLS: one that focuses on social responsibilities of modern
universities in the production of knowledge, and one that focuses on their responsibilities
with respect to language matters, or, more precisely, on processes of register expansion.
Responsibilities: outreach and register
It goes without saying that universities are important societal institutions for a range of
reasons, many of which pertain to their role as producers and disseminators of knowledge.
Predictably, reasoning about universities and their responsibilities have long lingered,
featuring as they did earlier in the writings of Immanuel Kant (see Derrida 1992 for an
appraisal). In our time, the theme has taken various directions. Derek Bok’s ‘Beyond the
Ivory Tower’ (1982) discusses at length the image of universities as secluded from society,
standing aloof from the public. Opposing this situation, he calls for a stance that stresses
social responsibilities of the modern university. While Bok writes from the viewpoint of U.S.
higher education, he points to issues with a global reach: universities have an obligation to
respond to public needs, and of balancing between the priorities of the institution and the
demands of the surrounding society, a fact that raises pivotal questions about public dialogue
versus scholarly kudos, etc. (e.g., Burawoy 2004; Fleck, Hess & Lyon 2008). Recently, this
issue has transpired into a discussion on saving science from itself (Sarewitz 2016), among
other things, by making ‘research accountable to the end-user rather than to […] scientific
peers’ (p. 36).
At heart, to speak of ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibilities’ nourishes on the idea that
universities ought to ‘serve’ societies. It may be argued that such a stance is particularly
germane in settings where HEIs are largely publicly funded, as they are in the Swedish case.
In one way or another, tax-funded research needs to be beneficial for its funders, in this case,
Swedish taxpayers. Accordingly, HEIs in Sweden are legally obliged to take responsibility
with regard to knowledge outreach as well as language development (see below). Swedish
law does not provide clear-cut directives as to how HEIs should take such responsibilities. As
a case in point, there are no national regulations stating that HEIs must have language
policies or what such policies should address. Instead, dictates to produce SLSs are regulated
at the level of HEIs and occasionally at faculty level. On the part of HEIs, then, imposing
such policies is one way of taking responsibility for enforcing practices that meet the
demands principally outlined in legal frameworks.
The responsibility of knowledge outreach feeds into what is known in Swedish HE as
samverkan, which translates roughly into interaction with surrounding society. Since 1997,
the task of ‘third stream activities’ is inscribed in the Higher Education Ordinance as one of
the three tasks of Swedish HEIs, the other two being research and teaching. In more recent
research policy developments, samverkan has been ascribed increasing importance as a facet
of university accountability, providing impetus for increased social collaboration and
research utility (Ministry of Education 2016). While this signifier of utilitarianism has
focused chiefly on the commodification of knowledge through science–industry interactions
(e.g., Perez Vico et al. 2017), it also embraces knowledge dissemination from academia to
society at large: popular-scientific communication, education, and outreach to the general
public. Promoters of this latter notion of samverkan are inclined to stress the relationship
between science and the knowledge it produces and ‘the public sphere’ in Habermas’ (1989
) original sense, that is, the communicative space of communal debate focal to
democracy in society. Modern accounts additionally foreground that science has multiple
publics (e.g., Fleck, Hess & Lyon 2008) and that, rather than being monolithic, publics are
‘active, knowledgeable, playing multiple roles, receiving as well as shaping science’
(Einsiedel 2007, 5). Outreach, thus, is an old idea with renewed relevance and value.
The responsibility of language development is regulated through the Language Act of
2009, which contains provisions on language responsibilities of the public sector, to which
Swedish HEIs, as government agencies, belong. The Act states, firstly, that ‘The public sector
has a particular responsibility for the use and development of Swedish’ (Ministry of Culture
2009, Section 6) and, secondly, that ‘Government agencies have a special responsibility for
ensuring that Swedish terminology in their various areas of expertise is accessible, and that it
is used and developed.’ (Section 12). These phrasings subscribe to a set of old preoccupations
within modernist LPP, originally concerned with the ‘modernization’, ‘intellectualization’,
and ‘standardization’ of languages (e.g., Fishman et al. 1968). The baseline is that linguistic
devices develop on the basis of utilization, and that ‘every language is equally well adapted to
the uses to which the community puts it’ (Halliday 1964, 43). Hence, the logic is that
Swedish needs to be used in order to develop, and here HEIs are obliged to contribute.
Support for such a position can be found in the more recent work of the linguistic
anthropologist Asif Agha (2007), who has worked in pursuit of developing a cultural-
semiotic understanding of languages as differentiated into registers. In this framework, a
register is envisaged as inventory of discursive signs, culture-internally recognized as being
associated with particular social practices and categories of persons who engage in such
practices. Since registers are historical value-attributed formations, they are also subjected to
change in respect to the demographic mass of speakers acquainted with its forms, the array of
semiotic devices that are recognized as its elements, and the continuity of language practices
where the register is employed over time (Agha 2007, 205). Even though Agha’s work does
not deal per se with the responsibilities of universities in register expansion, he recognizes
their vital role as formal institutions in the replication, dissemination and legitimation of
advanced registers. Universities, in short, belong to the kinds of institutions that may
facilitate register expansion and competence in society, for instance, by reinforcing a
register’s socially distributed existence by making it known to larger groups of people.
It is evident that language occupies a central place in relation to outreach as well as to register
expansion. Because language is a terrain where social struggles of academia are happening,
controlling – or regimenting – the use of language is key. The notion of language
regimentation I invoke derives from North American linguistic anthropology (e.g., Kroskrity
2000b), where ‘regimes of language’ has developed into a multi-faceted field of inquiry. At
the onset, it was advanced as an attempt to bring together two areas of scholarly inquiry that
had previously been kept apart: ‘politics (without language) and language (without politics)’
(Kroskrity 2000a, 3). Regimentation was subsequently introduced to bring to central stage a
view of linguistic choices as ensnared in politics and, ultimately, power. Analytically, it
directs attention to ‘practices used in controlling the production and reception […] of socially
dominant discourses’ (Kroskrity 2000a, 11).
This gaze has implications at many levels, ranging between externalist conceptions of
language governing ‘from above’ to those ‘from below’, which are often implicit or even
subconscious (e.g., Salö 2016, 15, 86). I here subscribe to an explicit conceptualization that
centers on ways of controlling the production of discourse though policies implemented at
various scales, for example, in national or pan-Nordic regulations or those affected by
individual HEIs. However, I additionally opt for a constructivist gaze that beckons analysts to
account for the discursive struggles of policy construction and implementation as the engine
of the labor involved in regimenting language, including accounts produced about language
over time. Hence, following Bauman and Briggs (2000) I take a particular interest in
metadiscourse, ‘the capacity of discourse to both represent and regulate other discourses’ (p.
142). Metadiscursive practice involves the production of valorizing language about language,
more often than not with the wilful intention of ending up with particular sociolinguistic
state-of-affairs. Metadiscursive accounts are often produced and reproduced through
prolonged struggles within the confines of language ideological debates. Under certain
conditions, they may successfully materialize into language policies of various sorts, often
consecrated by agents within the field of power (see Karlander 2017), which may thereafter
be used as instruments to authoritatively regiment real-life language practices.
Illustrating this approach, the paper now turns to the embedding of SLS in
metadiscursive debates on Swedish LPP.
3. From metadiscursive debate to policy – the view of advocates and policy-makers
In Sweden, criticism against the prevailing position of English in academia has been voiced
since the early 1990s, mostly from the juncture of institutionalized LPP and Scandinavian
linguistics (e.g., Teleman 1992). In 1997, a survey showed that English in the hard sciences
and, increasingly, in other academic fields was used either extensively or exclusively for a
range of academic activities: at seminars and lectures, in textbooks, as well as in written
production at all levels – most notably in scientific publishing (Gunnarsson & Öhman 1997).
In the metadiscursive debate triggered by this study, attention was drawn to a wide range of
ostensible issues, ranging from matters of language development to researchers’ cognition
and competence in both Swedish and English, as well as to questions of language status and
research quality (see, e.g., Gunnarsson 2001b).
While this body of criticism is multidimensional, it is possible to tease out two strands of
concerns manifested therein. The first centers on the dissemination of and public access to
research, which is what I refer to as the outreach view, linked as it is to public dialogue (e.g.,
Burawoy 2004). It has often been stressed that Sweden, the same as other high-technological
countries, is in essential need of having new knowledge ‘transmitted outside specialist
circles’ (Ministry of Culture 2002, 50, my translation). It has been argued that these processes
are rendered more difficult as researchers become more and more internationally orientated,
thereby distancing themselves from the general public and, in so doing, yielding a language
barrier that would result in a lack of participation of researchers in public discussions (e.g.,
Ministry of Culture 2002, 27; Teleman 2003, 232f.). From this vantage point, commentators
have argued that the dominance of English is problematic in that large segments of society
are excluded from the knowledge produced at universities. Tellingly, from this vantage point
certain ‘democratic objections’ were raised by Gunnarsson in the following way:
Through whom and in what way should research best benefit society, how can research
be useful, and how can the man on the street, politicians and others gain insight into
ongoing research activities? (Gunnarsson 2001a, 289)
The second strand pertains to the maintenance and construction of terminology,
discourse types and patterns, and stylistic-specific linguistic goods. This is what I refer to as
the register view, although it has traditionally been understood from the viewpoint of other
academic traditions. At stake here is the oft-noted fear that Swedish could lose its usability as
an effective means for communication within certain areas. Melander (2001, 28), for
example, talks of ‘loss of intertextuality’ as a process whereby Swedish ceases to be used in
certain genres and text-types of science, which results in ‘a small reduction of the stylistic
spectrum of Swedish.’ By the same token, Gunnarsson (2001b, 62) speaks of ‘genre death’
and of the change of culturally determined text patterns, caused by the impact of English in
the realm of science.
In 1997, The Swedish Language Council was tasked by the Swedish government to
produce an action plan for the safeguarding of the Swedish language. In its report (Swedish
Language Council 1998), the Council framed higher education and research as one area
among many where protective measures ought to be taken. On this point, the introduction of
mandatory SLSs in doctoral theses written in other languages was recommended. At the time,
the Council seems to have conceived this form of regimentation as, first and foremost, a way
of documenting, and thus ensuring, that doctoral candidates were able to discuss their
research topics in Swedish, too. However, as the debate progressed it mushroomed into a
wide range of potential issues, as outlined above. Accordingly, in the subsequent
governmental report Mål i mun (Ministry of Culture 2002), the objective for implementing
mandatory SLSs was significantly elaborated, now based on the dual grounds of
circumventing issues related to register development as well as those of knowledge bridging:
A summary in Swedish makes it possible to keep Swedish vivid also within
the most advanced fields of modern research. (…) A Swedish summary also
increases the preconditions of disseminating the new knowledge out into the
Swedish society. (Ministry of Culture 2002, 95, my translation)
In this framing of its benefits, the SLS was allotted to counteract several of the problems that
by now were metadiscursively associated with English in academia, including concerns of
outreach and register. In subsequent texts, SLSs were similarly advocated as serving plural
aims: to ‘safeguard Swedish terminology, keeping the Swedish language vivid and
disseminating new knowledge to the surrounding society’ (Ministry of Education and Culture
2005, 47, my translation). Noteworthy, there were LPP agents who positioned themselves
either as an advocate of the outreach view or of the register view by leaning to one side or the
other. For instance, Norén (2006, 28, my translation) argued that the SLS policy was ‘first
and foremost meaningful when the results are to be used for education and science
information.’ Thus, she opted for the adoption of Swedish in extra-scientific communication,
aimed for public audiences, and carried by genres other than the strictly scientific. From this
vantage point, the SLS could be seen as an attempt to widen the potential readership of the
thesis, since the register performing the SLS is deliberately scaled down as a way of reaching
out to non-experts.
Other LPP agents have envisioned SLSs as a way of putting the scientific Swedish to
work, principally in order to safeguard or expand its registers. For instance, the well-known
linguist and Swedish Academy member Sture Allén described the implementation of SLS
policy as a way to ‘force researchers to use Swedish technical terms’ (Lotsson 2003, my
translation). Likewise, in a report published by the Swedish Language Council, Salö (2010,
54) depicted SLSs as
one of the prerequisites for Swedish to remain a complete and society-
bearing language with words for scientific notions. Summaries in Swedish
reduce the risk that Swedish is depleted within certain scientific areas. (Salö
2010, 54, my translation)
Thus, in terms of rationale, emphasis is chiefly placed on the register side. In this view,
shared by Allén and others, the SLS is first and foremost intended to create a discursive arena
within which the devices of technical and field-specific Swedish can be entextualized and
replicated, which is seen as beneficial for the formation of scientific registers in Swedish.
Through such entextualization, linguistic devices that are otherwise used orally only become
reproduced in new forms, which broaden the semiotic range of the written register (Agha
2007). Dissemination of the register arises in the afterlife of the entextualized product, as it is
circulated and read by others and so expands the register’s social domain of users (ibid.).
While LPP stances on the SLS occasionally differ, they have not constituted a major
divide. Most commonly, the rationale for imposing SLSs has either been left uncommented
on (e.g., Falk 2001; Isaksson 2008) or framed as being beneficial for knowledge bridging
and, at the same time, register development (e.g., Ministry of Education and Culture 2005,
47; Ministry of Culture 2002, 95).
It is important to note that, as an interested practice, state-backed LPP deals with
normative, officially sanctioned forms of language regimentation, seeking as it does to arrive
at particular ‘desired’ language situations. Yet in Sweden, it is up to the individual HEIs to
craft and impose their own language policies. Therefore, an important aim of national LPP is
to extend its protectionist agenda to the policies of universities, which may thereafter
regiment the writing practices of active researchers. As with other policies, university
language policies are the result of negotiation and struggle, the goal of which is to anchor
particular agendas in various instances from which legitimate power can be exercised, and
socially dominant discourses implemented. Throughout such processes, as Källkvist and Hult
(2016) have shown, various forms of interests are weighed against each other; legal
frameworks are taken into consideration, and relevant scholarly works are read. After a given
set of normative conditions have been identified, various instruments can be implemented in
order to achieve particular desirable effects. That said, it ought to be noted additionally that
calls to enforce SLS policies have not come from LPP only. For example, even by the mid-
1990s, political petitions were being put forth to make popular-scientific SLSs compulsory
(e.g., Skånberg 1994). Likewise, in 2007 Sigbrit Franke, Sweden’s University Chancellor
1999–2007, described it as a reasonable step for all universities to make ‘extensive’ SLSs
obligatory (Franke 2007, 18). Nonetheless, a survey conducted by Falk (2001) revealed that,
at the time, relatively few departments demanded SLSs in English language doctoral theses.
The survey also pointed to major variations in the implementation. Among the biomedical
departments that responded, two out of seven had an SLS requirement – both, however,
stated that the SLS should be popular-scientific. Among the eleven polytechnic and natural
science units that responded, three claimed to demand SLSs of some sort, ranging from
‘short’ to ‘extended’ SLSs, or, written in a ‘relatively popular’ style. In the social sciences,
only one out of fourteen departments demanded SLSs.
According to the most recent mapping (Karlsson 2017), 21 out of 49 Swedish HEIs have
a language policy of some sort, a figure that includes most of Sweden’s large HEIs. A close
reading of the 21 existing language policy documents listed by Karlsson (2017) shows that 15
– two-thirds – include language about SLSs. In addition, SLSs are mentioned in the policies
of the two autonomous faculties included in the material, viz. Uppsala University’s Faculty of
Science and Technology (TEKNAT) and Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering (LTH).
SLSs are typically mentioned in passing. Most policies do not address why they are to be
produced, nor do they, consistently, specify whether they are to be written in scientific or
more accessible registers. Yet, there are cases where the policies more or less subtly stipulate
what forms of benefits SLSs are intended to yield. Three institutions – Chalmers, TEKNAT
and LTH – state that SLSs are to be ‘popular scientific’ and thus geared toward education and
outreach. Subsequently, for these institutions, notably all with a polytechnic profile, emphasis
is consequently not placed upon the task of developing relevant registers of technical
Swedish, but rather on the task of presenting findings in an accessible manner. However,
KTH, the largest technical HEI in the country, places weight on the development of Swedish
terminology. University of Gothenburg and Linnaeus University, for their part, state that
SLSs are to be ‘extensive’ (Sw: ‘fyllig’).
In sum, the indecisiveness found among advocates concerning the objectives of the SLS
as a regimenting practice seem also to be manifested in the varying positions of universities.
Next, the paper turns to the practitioners.
4. SLSs in practice – the view of practitioners
The practice of producing SLSs is generally supported within the scientific community at
large – that is, it is generally seen as a reasonable way of regimenting the writing practices of
researchers-to-be (Ministry of Culture 2008, 83). The fact that more and more university
language policies demand SLSs is also an indication of this fact (Salö 2010; Karlsson 2017).
Nonetheless, not all English-language doctoral theses are complemented with an SLS even in
cases where the language policy requires practitioners to do so. Pointing to this fact, Salö
(2010, 51ff.) conducted a mini-survey in which three recent doctorates were asked to reflect
upon SLSs. All three wrote their theses in English, and none of them included an SLS – in
spite of the fact that the language policies of their respective HEIs required them to do so.
One researcher reported that he had been oblivious to the demand, and said that the matter
was never discussed with supervisors and others. Another recalled pondering upon this
question. However, not knowing that including an SLS was a requirement, this researcher
chose not to include one after having been informed that doing so was not really necessary.
Similarly, unaware that SLSs were required, a third doctoral graduate eluded the SLS due to
lack of time, and did not find it overly important either. All three doctoral researchers
reported that they would have included an SLS had they known that doing so was required.
While the doctoral researchers’ accounts demonstrate a general willingness to satisfy
SLS policies, their responses nevertheless index that the production of SLSs is often low-
prioritized and, therefore, is not taken very seriously. This stance may be seen in the account
of a recent PhD graduate in physics who included an SLS in her thesis.
Extract 1: Interview account from physicist, Dr. Jenny (my alias)
Linus: You wrote a summary in Swedish for your thesis, didn’t you?
Dr. Jenny: Yes
Linus: Do you have any memories if there was anything that was difficult about
Dr. Jenny: Do you want me to tell you how I did it?
Dr. Jenny: I wrote the abstract in English and then I ran it through Google Translate
Dr. Jenny: Then I adjusted it a bit
Dr. Jenny: So that is how good it was
Thus, the practice of producing SLSs is, at times, low-valued and is unnecessarily time-
consuming. In such cases, efficacious regimentation involves convincing – or forcing –
practitioners to prioritize the writing up of SLSs. There are examples of HEIs that take quite
radical measures to ensure that SLSs are produced. At TEKNAT, a sum of SEK 27.000 (3000
Euro) is provided to departments to cover costs associated with thesis defences and printing;
this sum, however, is to be paid back to the faculty in cases where the thesis that is produced
does not contain a popular-scientific SLS (Uppsala University 2016, 103).
Concerning time, Josephson has contended, somewhat crossly, that ‘it takes perhaps four
days to write up a good Swedish summary of the doctoral thesis in English’ (Josephson 2004,
134, my translation). This estimate seems to be made on the basis that Ph.D. candidates who
write their theses in English have also mastered Swedish. ‘For the individual PhD student’,
Mål i mun similarly states, the production of an SLS ‘gives the opportunity to practice
describing one’s topic in Swedish’, which is seen as an important part of a researcher’s
communicative skills (Ministry of Culture 2002, 95, my translation). Deliberately or not, this
view overlooks the fact that theses in Swedish academia are commonly produced by
candidates who have not mastered Swedish at a sufficient degree. In such cases, as extract 2
highlights, a range of other concerns are actualized. Here, a professor in physics is
interviewed. While he is generally sympathetic to the SLS demand, he also sees it as
problematic, given the fact that senior staff, rather than the candidate, often end up writing
Extract 2: Interview account from physicist, Prof. Folke (my alias)
Prof. Folke: Because Reza is from Iran, so he could not write a summary in Swedish
Linus: Ok, so it was you?
Prof. Folke: Yes, and in this case I just did a direct translation of his English [abstract],
so this one is not like the Swedish ones that typically appear, it is just
straight off of what he had written
Another issue in the implementation of the SLS policy is that those who actually produce
SLSs understand the task differently. As an illustration, the material analyzed by Josephson
(2015), consisting of 86 SLSs, reveals major variability. Firstly, the genre is in itself labeled
in 13 different ways – ‘Sammanfattning på svenska’, ‘Swedish summary’,
‘Populärvetenskaplig redogörelse’ and so on – which serves as an index of the ways in which
the authors define their own practices and perceive the genre they write in. One-third of them
have titles containing the word ‘popular’, thus marking an affinity to outreach communicative
practices. Two-thirds have titles that are unmarked in this sense, that is, they can but do not
have to be written within scientific registers more specifically. In addition, Josephson makes
a rough estimate of five ‘kinds of texts’ that are represented in the sample:
1. Short, more or less simplified translations of the English-language abstract
2. Short adaptations of the translated abstract, where the prose is geared towards the
registers of written standard Swedish
3. Longer scientific texts, written in scientific registers
4. Popular-scientific texts
5. Short hybrids, mixing traits from several registers
Again, then, the implementation of SLS policies seems to be beset with varying conceptions
of what kind of text the SLS is meant to be. However, notwithstanding variation and
implementation issues, SLSs are being produced. Salö and Hanell (2014) report on a Swedish
computer scientist who, by the end of his thesis project, faced the task of producing an SLS.
His understanding of this task led him to produce a translation of the English-language thesis
abstract, which accordingly resulted in a fairly short text written in advanced registers of
computer science Swedish. Two facts are particularly important to highlight here. Firstly, his
rationale for producing the SLS in the first place was because the language policy adopted by
his university required him to do so. This shows that language policies imposed at the
university level do have the capacity of regimenting writing practices. Secondly, the SLS that
was eventually produced was emailed to colleagues at the department in order to receive
feedback of various kinds, which resulted in some 31 emails that were sent back and forth
between the parties. This exchange triggered a metadiscursive discussion in which several
linguistic features were debated. What this suggests is that, from the viewpoint of LPP
interests, the SLS might not in itself be the most vital outcome of his writing practice. More
important, arguably, is the discourse in and about computerese Swedish, triggered by the
production of the SLS. However, in the correspondence surrounding it, it is at the same time
evident that the colleagues who were involved understood the purpose of the SLS differently,
rendered significant by the fact that some participants opted for the use of standard Swedish,
intelligible across broad segments of society (the outreach view), while others opted for
technical computerese (the register view) (Salö & Hanell 2014, 22–24).
5. Concluding remarks: Killing two birds with one stone?
Swedish HEIs are at pains to maximize the profit linked to adopting English in transnational,
scientific communication while, at the same time, circumventing issues that this
pronouncement may cause. In this light, the imposition of Swedish-language summaries
(SLSs) in English-language doctoral theses has been portrayed as a solution capable of
solving, or at least discharging, a wide range of issues metadiscursively linked to the
dominance of English in scientific communication. Accordingly, at Swedish HEIs it is
increasingly becoming legion to demand SLSs. Yet, agents who are active in Swedish
academia often have different conceptions of why SLSs should be written at all. The
positions taken in LPP discourse, as well as those in university language policies and the
academic realities of researchers’ writing practices, tend to vary: some see the SLS as a
knowledge-bridging instrument used for popular-scientific purposes, other see it as a key
opportunity for entextualizing registers that are otherwise performed for the most part orally.
These varying ideas do not correspond straightforwardly to groups of stakeholders such as
advocates, policy-makers or practitioners but are found throughout each group.
This paper has conceptualized the SLS as an instrument for regimenting scholarly
writing practices, deliberately aimed at limiting the near-total dominance of English in
scientific, written text production and so counteract the macrosocial forces favoring English.
In this context, one can speak of an outreach–register ‘conundrum’, which is motivated on
two grounds. Firstly, it pinpoints the fact that the position of English in Swedish academia
comprises an intricate problem that seems to be at odds with the responsibilities of HEIs in
Swedish society. Secondly, it signals that English represents a conjectural problem, the
Janus-faced components of which may prove difficult to solve with any single solution. The
problem description in itself comprises two strands of concerns linked to the dominance of
English, each of which calls for remedies that are potentially incompatible between
themselves. Among its advocates, the SLS has been metadiscursively exalted as a possible
solution to knowledge outreach and, in chorus, register development. Whereas the ‘outreach
strand’ is concerned chiefly with the dissemination of research findings as a vital bridge
between academia and society at large, the ‘register strand’ pertains rather to linguistic
processes of sustaining Swedish as an effective vehicle for the communication of complex
thought. While both of these strands of arguments are legitimate, they are not realizable
within the confines of a single text, viz. the SLS. This is because there is a contradiction
between these two aims, which is to say that a form of oxymoronic multi-functionality is
placed upon the SLS. In relation to the outreach strand, an optimal SLS should be ‘popular-
scientific’, performed using language that is accessible across broad segments of society.
However, in relation to the register strand, an optimal SLS is written using the registers of
scientific Swedish. Put differently, an SLS that is simple enough to bridge the gap between
science and society is not likely to contribute to expanding advanced registers of Swedish.
Vice versa, an SLS that takes seriously the task of expanding Swedish registers will be
unintelligible for the wider audience. Therefore, I hold, SLSs cannot at once be expected to
resolve the democratic issue and contribute to the development of academic registers – hence,
in this case killing two birds with one stone does not seem plausible.
Of course, it could be relevant to ask: Does it matter? Do varying understandings
necessarily pose an issue? These matters are up for debate. For some – arguably, for many –
the thesis SLS might well equate to the first and last piece of research writing in their career
that is produced in Swedish. In that light, this particular form of regimentation might in one
way or another contribute to dissemination research findings to new groups or to the
legitimation of registers other than scientific English. If there is little scholarly knowledge
concerning the production of SLSs, even less is known about their reception and utilization.
Who reads SLSs, and for what purposes? Potentially, they are read by other researchers in
search of a quick introduction to the research results – for them, the value might lie in the
brief format rather than the additional-language feature. They might also be used by members
of the educated public who prefer Swedish over English, or by science journalists, industry
collaboration partners and stakeholders, etc. Thus, in spite of the vagueness, variation, and
practical issues surrounding it, the SLS might nevertheless be useful in different ways, all of
which aim to avoid a split of the public sphere along the axis of language boundaries,
whether these are perceived in terms of capital-L languages or registers within such
constructions. Not least, it may serve as a symbolic reminder of the fact that science
comprises multilingual practices and has multiple publics, in spite of the current dominance
of English in publishing.
This paper was produced within the knowledge platform ‘Making Universities Matter: A Knowledge
Platform on the Role of Universities in Society’, supported by Vinnova, Sweden, under grant number
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