Kendra Willson profile picture
Scandinavian Languages
Project: Invisible forces: communication with the supernatural in folk belief from Finland's bilingual coastal areas (Svenska kulturfonden, 2019-2021)

Areas of expertise

Old Norse
Modern Icelandic
personal names
historical syntax


Academic positions2019-2021: Researcher, Nordic languages, School of language and translation studies, University of Turku. Project: Invisible forces, funded by Svenska kulturfonden.2018-2019: EURIAS/Marie Skłodowska-Curie junior fellow, Polish Institute of Advanced Studies, Warsaw

2018 Visiting professor, English department, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

2015-2017 Collegium researcher, Turku Institute for Advanced Studies/Nordic languages, School of language and translation studies, University of Turku. Project: Finno-Ugric elements in runic inscriptions.

2012-2014 Research fellow, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Study. Project: Control of personal names: language, citizenship and identity.2011-2012 Fulbright fellow, Finno-Ugric languages, University of Turku. Project: Finnish non-finite constructions in an emergent system.2007-2011 Assistant professor in residence, Scandinavian Section, University of California, Los Angeles.2003-2004 Instructor, Icelandic department, University of Manitoba.Education2007 Ph.D., Scandinavian languages and literatures, University of California, Berkeley. Dissertation: Icelandic nicknames.1999 M.A., Scandinavian languages and literatures, University of California, Berkeley.1993 A.B. magna cum laude, Germanic languages and literatures, Harvard University.2007 B.A., Icelandic for foreign students, University of Iceland.


At the University of Turku, I have taught courses in English on Old Icelandic literature and mythology and an Old Norse reading course conducted in Finnish.

Other teaching experience includes Modern Icelandic and Swedish language instruction as well as courses in Modern Icelandic literature, Vikings, and Nordic folklore.


In general I am interested in questions that connect historical linguistics with a broader cultural context.

My current research project concerns Finland's relationship to Scandinavian runic culture, including possible Finnish and Sámi words in runic inscriptions, as well as use of and beliefs about runes in Finland over time.

I have worked extensively on Icelandic personal names. My dissertation discusses nickname formation and use in Old and Modern Icelandic. Collecting nicknames - unofficial names - led to an interest in name law: how it is decided which names can have official status.

I am also interested in aspects of saga style and narrative technique in Old Norse-Icelandic literature, continuity and change in Icelandic language, beliefs, and narrative practices, and the modern reception of the Old Norse literary heritage.

Another area of focus is historical syntax and grammaticalization; I have worked on examples from both Germanic and Finnic languages, including Icelandic word order, coordinating conjunctions attested in early runic inscriptions, and the Finnish TUA-converb (second temporal construction).


Sort by:

Runes in Finland (2024)

Willson Kendra
(Toimitustyö tieteelliselle lehdelle, kokoomateokselle tai konferenssijulkaisulle (C2))

Fornaldarsögur (2023)

Willson Kendra
(Artikkeli ammatillisessa kokoomateoksessa (D2))