Dr Ragnhild Ljosland


Dr Ragnhild LjoslandDr Ragnhild Ljosland, Cand. Philol., PhD, FHEA

UHI Archaeology Institute & UHI Language Sciences Institute
Orkney College, East Road, Kirkwall, KW15 1LX
01856 569302


ORCID orcid.org/0000-0002-7783-173X

Pure profile: https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/persons/ragnhild-ljosland

Academia profile: http://uhi.academia.edu/RagnhildLjosland

Researchgate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ragnhild_Ljosland


Research Interests

I am a sociolinguist with interest in culture and heritage, affiliated with the UHI Archaeology Institute & UHI Language Sciences Institute. My research is focused on the discursive construction of imagined communities and latterly the narrative construction of heritage. In my PhD (2008) and early career research I investigated the role ascribed to the English language in research and higher education in non-English speaking countries, thinking especially of how English functions not only as a lingua franca, but as a signifier of belonging within transnational specialist communities, and as a signal of aspirations to participate in a globalised higher education “market” with the diminishing role of national languages in these sectors which comes as a result of these processes. More recently, my research has broadened to include wider aspects of linguistic and cultural history and heritage, with a particular interest in Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, such as sociolinguistic aspects of the post-medieval Norn to Scots language shift, runology, Orkney and Shetland dialect and dialect literature, the rhetoric of support for Scots as a language within the context of the Scottish independence movement, and the narratives of heritage.

Research Projects

AHRC Scoping Study for a Corpus Based Grammatical Investigation of Orkney and Shetland Dialect. This project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities initiative.

Orkney and Shetland Community Digital Heritage Project (with Alexandra Sanmark and Andrew Jennings). This Challenge funded project worked with older members of the Orkney and Shetland communities facilitating their use of digital technology, such as tablets and smart phones, to record their knowledge and stories about places in the landscape. Voice recordings and photos were gathered onto a digital map linking memories and place.

Scots and Nynorsk: Comparing two language movements and their claims to independence. This project was funded by the University of the Highlands and Islands sabbatical scheme.

Research Supervision

Current research students

Jane Ferguson: “‘Cultural entrepreneurialism’ in the western isles: exploring key drivers and benefits of regional socioeconomic & minority language development. Supervisors: Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Iain Caimbeul, Ragnhild Ljosland. 

Academic Responsibilities

I lecture on the following degrees:

  • BA Hons Culture & Heritage
  • MLitt Viking Studies


  • Runology and Old Norse Studies
  • Languages on the Edge
  • Scotland’s Music
  • Languages of the Highlands and Islands
  • Tradition, Custom and Belief

Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) to BA Archaeology and joint degrees, Applied Music, Creative Writing.

External memberships and esteem

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Scottish Language (Journal) Editorial board member (from 2016)
  • Carnegie Trust Research Assessor (from 2014)
  • External examiner, University of Stavanger (>2012)
  • Member of the Cultural and Linguistic Practices in the International University CALPIU Network.

Highlands and Islands Student Association Award, 2017: Best Research or Dissertation Supervisor

Selected invited speaker addresses:

  • Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group: Ragnhild Ljosland: "The Problem of Finding Sources for the Study of Norn, the Scandinavian Language of Caithness and the Northern Isles." Cambridge University, 17/1/2014.
  • Viking Congress 2013: Waugh, Doreen and Ragnhild Ljosland: “Skoit du oot by, Magnie: Mutual support between Norn and Scots in the dialects of the Northern Isles.” 3-10/8/2013.
  • CALPIU conference, 2012: Cultural and Linguistic Practices in the International University. 
  • Orkney International Science Festival 2017: John D. Mackay Memorial Lecture. "The Men in Maeshowe: Why did they break in?"

Selected media appearances:

  • Mystic Britain: The Monster of Maeshowe. Mystic Britain is a Blink Films production which first aired on the Smithsonian Channel over 10 episodes from 2nd June 2020. Ragnhild Ljosland featured in the episode "The Monster of Maeshowe" 16th June 2020, where she was interviewed about Norse culture and presented her research on Maeshowe in folklore and folk belief.
  • Secret Scotland: This Channel 5 production was presented by Susan Calman and episode 5 aired on 8th March 2019, where Ragnhild Ljosland helped Susan Calman discover the role the Vikings had in Orcadian history.
  • Vesterhavsøyene. This series was presented by Dag Lindebjerg and aired on NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) channel in 2012 and with several repeats. Ragnhild Ljosland featured in episode 2: Orknøyene.


Guest editor, New Orkney Antiquarian Journal. 2020. Volume 9 Special Edition:  The Victims of the Orkney Witchcraft Trials. Ljosland, R. and Irvine, J. (eds.) Orkney Heritage Society.
Ljosland, R., 2020. “Maeshowe, Orkahaugr – The names of Orkney’s great burial mound as nodes in a heteroglossic web of meaning-making.” Oisín Plumb, Alexandra Sanmark and Donna Heddle (eds.) What is North? Imagining the North from Ancient Times to the Present Day. Brepols Publishers. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/maeshowe-orkahaugr-the-names-of-orkneys-great-burial-mound-as-nod
Ljosland, R., 2020. “Runic Spindle Whorl Recently Found in Orkney” Futhark International Journal of Runic Studies 9-10, 215-230. http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1385975/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Ljosland, R., 2020. The Orkney Book of Runes. Kirkwall: Orkney Archaeology Society.
Freund, A. & Ljosland, R. 2019. “Modern Rune Carving in Northern Scotland” Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies. 8, 127-150. http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1333697/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Ljosland, R., 2016. “Skoit du oot-by, Magnie: Scots Grammar Supported by Norn in the Dialects of the Northern Isles?” Shetland and the Viking World: Papers from the Proceedings of the Seventeenth Viking Congress Lerwick. Turner, V., Owen, O. & Waugh, D. (eds.). Lerwick: Shetland Heritage Publications, 69-76. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/skoit-du-oot-by-magnie-scots-grammar-supported-by-norn-in-the-dia
Ljosland, R., 2016. “The be-perfect in transitive constructions in Orkney and Shetland Scots: Influenced by Norn or not?” Before the storm. Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Ayr 2016. Millar, R. M. & Cruickshank, J. (eds.). Aberdeen: Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster, Vol. 5. 107-127. https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pfrlsu/documents/PFRLSU/Ljosland_be-perfect.pdf
Ljosland, R., 2015. “Policymaking as a multi-layered activity. A case study from the higher education sector in Norway.” Higher Education. 70, 4, 611-627. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/policymaking-as-a-multi-layered-activity-a-case-study-from-the-hi
Ljosland, R., 2014. “Language planning in practice in the Norwegian higher education sector”. English in Nordic Universities. Ideologies and practices. Hultgren, A. K., Gregersen, F. & Thøgersen, J. (eds.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 53-82. (Studies in World Language Problems; vol. 5). https://benjamins.com/catalog/wlp.5.03ljo
Ljosland, R., 2014. “Language planning confronted by everyday communication in the international university: the Norwegian case” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 35, 4, 392-405. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/language-planning-confronted-by-everyday-communication-in-the-int
Ljosland, R., 2013. “Old Norse Cultural Influence in the Work of Christina M. Costie” Journal of the North Atlantic. Special Volume 4/2013, 177-188. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/old-norse-cultural-influence-in-the-work-of-christina-m-costie
Ljosland, R. 2013. “Communicating Identity: The Modern Runes of Orkney” Studia Historyczne 2013, 3, 415-430. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/przekazuj%C4%85c-to%C5%BCsamo%C5%9B%C4%87-wsp%C3%B3%C5%82czesne-runy-z-orkney
Ljosland, R., 2013. “'I'll cross dat brig whin I come til him': Grammatical gender in the Orkney and Shetland dialects of Scots.” Scottish Language. 31/32, 29-58. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/ill-cross-dat-brig-whin-i-come-til-him-grammatical-gender-in-the-
Ljosland, R., 2012. “The Establishment of the Scots Language in Orkney” New Orkney Antiquarian Journal 6, 65-80. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/the-establishment-of-the-scots-language-in-orkney
Ljosland, R., 2012. “The Gyro: The Giantess who Lived a Thousand Years” Snæ 1, 131-135.
Ljosland, R., 2011. Chrissie's Bodle. Discovering Orkney's Forgotten Writer Christina M. Costie. Kirkwall. The Orcadian.
Ljosland, R. 2010. “English as an Academic Lingua Franca: Language policies and multilingual practices in a Norwegian university.” Journal of Pragmatics. 43, 4, 991-1004. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378216610002456
Ljosland, R., 2010. “Teaching Through English: Monolingual Policy Meets Multilingual Practice.” Hermes. 45, 99-113. https://tidsskrift.dk/her/article/view/97349
Ljosland, R., 2008. Lingua franca, prestisjespråk og forestilt fellesskap: Om engelsk som akademisk språk i Norge. Et kasusstudium i bred kontekst. PhD thesis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 396 p. https://ntnuopen.ntnu.no/ntnu-xmlui/handle/11250/243691
Ljosland, R., 2007. “English in Norwegian academia: a step towards diglossia?” World Englishes 26, 4, 395-410. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229440775_English_in_Norwegian_academia_A_step_towards_diglossia
Ljosland, R., 2005. “Norway’s Misunderstanding of the Bologna Process: When Internationalisation Becomes Anglicisation” Paper presented at the conference Bi- and Multilingual Universities: Challenges and Future Prospects. Helsinki University 1-3 September 2005. https://www.academia.edu/839989/Norways_misunderstanding_of_the_Bologna_process_when_internationalisation_becomes_Anglicisation
Ljosland, R., 2004. “Å velge bort norsk: domenetap i nytt teoretisk lys.“ Norsklæreren 28, 1, 15-21.
Ljosland, R., 2004. “Engelsk, selvfølgelig! Språklig sosialisering blant doktorgradsstipendiater.“ Språk i kunnskapssamfunnet. : Engelsk -elitenes nye latin? Simonsen, D. F. (ed.). Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk Forlag, 137-146.