Language practices among toddlers and professionals in Danish nurseries

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper/skriftligt oplægForskningpeer review


This paper presentation draws on an ongoing linguistic ethnographic research project exploring language practices in Danish nurseries targeted at children from 0 to 3 years. Nurseries are pedagogical institutions targeted at small children aged 0-3 years, and since more than 90% of Danish 1-2 year olds are enrolled in nursery (or similar pedagogical institutions), the nursery constitutes a vital welfare institution in contemporary Denmark (cf. Høyrup 2018). This goes for the enrolled children and their families, for the professionals in the nursery and in a societal perspective. However, the nursery constitutes a highly under-researched field in Danish educational research in comparison with other pedagogical institutions such as kindergarten and – especially – primary and secondary school. This project aims to shed light on the linguistic dimensions of everyday life in the nursery and addresses the following overarching research questions: Which language practices do children and professionals engage in in everyday life in the nursery? What characterizes toddlers’ linguistic and communicative repertoires in the nursery? Which understandings of language and of good language learning environments inform the practice of the professionals in the nursery? Theoretically, the project is informed by an understanding of language as social practice (Holm & Laursen 2009, Laursen & Holm 2017). Language is conceptualized as practice rather than as a formal system – language is something people do, individually and in social relations, rather than a fixed and bounded entity possessed by the individual, and ‘language’ thus represents an unstable and irreducibly dialectic interaction between structure, form and ideology (Silverstein 1985). This also goes for the toddlers in focus in this project, and the toddlers’ linguistic and communicative repertoires must therefore be understood and investigated as part of the toddler culture (Løkken 2005) emerging from the ineraction between toddlers and professionals in everyday life in the nursery. The project unfolds as a linguistic ethnography (Copland & Creese 2015; Daugaard et al 2016; Snell, Copland & Shaw 2015; Rampton 2007). In linguistic ethnography, focus is on the intersection of language and sociality. Linguistic ethnography holds that language and social life are mutually shaping and strives to combine detailed linguistic analysis with understanding of broader relations of power and ideology. Inspired by team ethnography (Blackledge & Creese 2010), the project is based on multi-sited fieldwork conducted by the three members of the research team in three different nurseries in two different Danish cities. During 10 months of fieldwork in each of the nurseries, a multi-facetted empirical material is produced. The empirical material consists of fieldnotes, photos and audio and video recordings and is supplemented by different kinds of interviews. Throughout the project, special attention is given to the exploration of ways to investigate, analyse, understand and represent the linguistic and communicative repertoires of the toddlers in the nurseries in meaningful and adequate ways within a linguistic ethnographic perspective. The paper presentation focuses especially on a series of explorative toddler interviews with 1-2 year old children in the three nurseries. The toddler interviews were not included in the original research design, but serendipitously proved relevant through the first stages of fieldwork and were developed through the later stages. The toddler interviews were conducted by the researchers, involved the researcher and one or more toddlers, took place in the nursery and evolved around interaction with concrete artefacts or various kinds of visual material such as photos or excerpts from a children’s book. The paper presentation thus explores the notion of the toddler interview as an emergent methodological resource and discusses its potentials as well as limitations in a linguistic ethnographic perspective.
Publikationsdato3 sep. 2019
StatusUdgivet - 3 sep. 2019
BegivenhedECER 2019: 'Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future' - Hamborg, Tyskland
Varighed: 3 sep. 20196 sep. 2019


KonferenceECER 2019


  • Medier, kommunikation og sprog
  • Børn og unge