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Tove Rosendal


Department of Languages &
Visiting address
Renströmsgatan 6
41256 Göteborg
Room number
Postal address
Box 200
40530 Göteborg

About Tove Rosendal

  • Office hour: by appointment


I defended my thesis “Linguistic Landshapes. A comparison of official and non-official language management in Rwanda and Uganda, focusing on the position of African languages” in June 2010. This is a macro-sociolinguistic work where I compare and analyze language policy and language use in Rwanda and Uganda within formal domains. The work included model and method development.

Before starting my doctoral studies in 2005 at the then Department of Oriental and African Languages at the University of Gothenburg, I worked as a teacher and with non-formal adult education - in Sweden and also in African countries.


Since spring 2018, I have been working on the project “Signs of change – Social Identity and Power Reflected in the Linguistic Landscape of Rwanda”, funded by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation. This is a three-year project. The aim of this project is to provide insights into how language, place and people interact in the linguistic landscape (LL) in Rwanda, and to understand how power relationships and identity are constructed and transformed in this public space. In Africa, language policy plays an important role and influences the LL. Rwanda has a quadrilingual language policy which favours English, especially after 2008, despite the fact that English has no colonial historical background in the country. In Rwanda, there are discrepancies in access to European, high-status languages and consequently differences from the perspective of power. This project has two parts. The first is a quantitative analysis comparing unique data on signage that I collected prior to the changes in 2008, with new data. This diachronic section fills a knowledge gap within LL research, especially in Africa, and reveals the effects of language policy decisions. A qualitative, in-depth part (multi-modal analysis of signage and walk-along interviews) focuses on the practical and symbolic functions of the languages, and on research questions such as the relationship between the text/language and image, and between the sender and the recipient. These questions are understudied in Africa. The African perspective is needed because studies of language landscapes mostly focus on urban immigrant environments in the Western world. The conditions in African countries pose new questions, such as how literacy (reading and writing) impact the LL. This study therefore contributes knowledge to LL research on processes in societies that are often peripheral. It also broadens the field of research.

I am also involved in the project “The role of language in segregation and gentrification processes: linguistic landscapes in Gothenburg, Sweden” along with colleagues at the Department and beyond. A pilot project financed by stiftelsen Anna Ahrenbergs fond (the Anna Ahrenberg Foundation) paved the way for a three-year Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) project that began in January 2019. In brief, this project deals with social upward mobility and gentrification processes with consequent immigrations and emigrations of different population categories and how these are reflected in and influence how language is used.

Between 2014 and 2018, I worked on the project “Linguistic Marginalization - Understanding the Process and Effects on Development Capacities” which was a 3.5 year project funded by the Swedish Research Council (U-Forsk). The project was a socio-linguistic study linking the use of language with development issues. The project focused on code switching, i.e., switching between Ngoni and Swahili in the Ruvuma region in south-west Tanzania. Swahili, which is used in formal contexts and which, since independence, has been promoted as a language of communication across ethnic and linguistic boundaries, has a growing place in Tanzanian society, even in rural communities and within the family. It is estimated that approximately 95 per cent of the adult population speak Swahili.

Language use can be an important marker of identity in encounters between different cultures. How language is used therefore has a symbolic weight, and identity is shaped by these symbolic systems. Switching between Ngoni and Swahili can be seen as an indication that Ngoni as a language is under threat or in the process of disappearing, and as a communication strategy. An important question therefore is whether code switching shows that the Ngoni population can no longer express themselves in their mother tongue, or whether it denotes group membership or identity. Are the Ngoni people losing their identity in this process or are other identities perhaps being created?

In 2012–2014, as a post-doc I had a project within the TASENE programme, which was funded by COSTECH, SIDA and NWO (the Netherlands’ Organization for Scientific Research)/WOTRO Science for Global Development. The project entitled Ngoni – Language, culture and sociolinguistic situation was a project in three parts conducted in Tanzania in collaboration with Dr Gastor Mapunda, University of Dar es Salaam. The project studied the minority language Ngoni spoken in the Ruvuma region in southern Tanzania. It included a socio-linguistic survey/interview study of 800 school children in grade 1 and grades 5–7 in which their parents’ linguistic background, the children’s knowledge of Ngoni, their attitudes to Ngoni, and how the language was used in the local community were studied. The other two parts of the project involved documenting and analysing spoken Ngoni using digital equipment. Recordings with informants in different age groups were made. The linguistic analysis focused particularly on the extent to which borrowed words from Swahili and English were used, how these had been integrated into Ngoni and last but not least, if code switching (i.e., switching between Ngoni and another language) was occurring. Extensive code switching may indicate that a language is becoming impoverished and in the longer term may no longer be transferred from one generation to the next, which also indicates that a language may be under threat and even starting to disappearing.

I have also conducted research funded by the Birgit och Gad Rausings Stiftelse för Vetenskaplig Forskning (Birgit and Gad Rausing Foundation for Scientific Research) into the status and usage of the Cushitic language Somali in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, i.e., the countries bordering Somalia, where Somali is spoken in some regions.

By studying the relationship between languages that are permitted to be used and which are de facto used in various functions in multilingual societies, power relationships are revealed. The language that is given official recognition and the status of the teaching language for example, and thus is the language spoken by a country’s elite, is important for both democracy and socio-economic development.


I have earlier been responsible for the net-based course AF1100, Language and Society in Africa and lectured within the new Internationella språkprogrammet. Earlier, I have even taught the net courses SO1101, Somali Society and Culture and SO1201, Language and Society. Together with Harbi Abdillahi Amir I have developed contract education about Somali culture (courses and lectures). For several years I also taught part of the course Afrikastudier at Global studies, University of Gothenburg.