Publication details [#60866]

Lehtonen, Heini. 2016. Troping on prejudice. Stylised “bad Finnish” performances and reflexivity among adolescents in Eastern Helsinki. AILA Review 29 (1) : 15–47.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper studies reflexivity in interaction among adolescents in Helsinki in the light of stylised performances that are labelled by participants as “bad Finnish”. Stylised “bad Finnish” can be seen as an enregistered discourse register. It is an emblem in which certain linguistic features are connected to ideas about certain kinds of people and their characteristics. In particular, stylised “bad Finnish” is an indexical for social personae associated with “immigrants”, “foreigners” and non-native Finnish. The participants in this study came to Finland as children and learned Finnish as a second (or third or fourth) language, and they still have to face the excluding attitudes of the society. With their stylised performances and in their reactions to them, the participants position themselves with regard to the social personae indexed by stylised “bad Finnish”, their stereotypical characteristics and the wider societal discourses that touch upon themselves. Stylised “bad Finnish” is sometimes used for expressing distance from stereotypical immigrants, but sometimes for displaying solidarity with those who share the experiences of immigration and learning Finnish. Although it also works as a trope, seemingly detached from ethnicity, in interaction with native Finns it may still be delicate because of its pejorative social indexical potential.