Research at the Department of English

The research interests of the Department cover a large area of the field of English studies.

Some members of the staff and doctoral students have their individual projects, while others work in externally funded projects, in the Utuling doctoral programme and in research groups. Much of the linguistic research focuses on discourse linguistics, historical studies of English, and second language acquisition. In the literary studies, the New English literatures are a key area of interest. Central topics in the field of translation studies include the history of translation, translation technology and the acquisition of translation expertise. In addition, code-switching is a topic that unites researchers in all areas. These five research areas – historical linguistics and philology, second language acquisition, discourse studies, literature, translation and interpreting studies – are  presented in more detail below. Research is also increasingly interdisciplinary.

In historical linguistics and philology, the Department’s profile comprises a broad range of research into historical pragmatics (pragmaphilology), textual scholarship and the study of multilingualism, from the Early Middle to the Late Modern English period. Our approaches tend to be synchronic and qualitative, characterised by the rich analysis of situational, discoursal and physical contexts of texts representing a variety of both literary and non-literary writing. The foundations of the current work in this area were laid by professor emeritus Risto Hiltunen’s Discourse Perspectives on Early English projects, funded by the Academy of Finland in 1999–2001 and 2001–2005. Findings made in these projects led to the formation of the Pragmatics on the Page (PoP) project which combines linguistics with book studies to explore the interplay of verbal and visual/material communication in early English manuscripts and printed texts.

Our research topics include:

  • historical linguistics from the medieval to the modern, historical multilingualism and language contacts, historical pragmatics and discourse linguistics  
  • material philology, book history, textual scholarship
  • the second language learning process, for instance, the effect of individual learner differences, learning contexts and strategies, and first language or other known languages on the learning outcomes
  • spoken learner English, for instance, pronunciation and its development, spoken language fluency, and conversation skills
  • written learner language and its development from various perspectives, for instance, the connection between lexis and syntax, complexity and accuracy of academic English, phraseology and expressions of modality, and the connection between spoken and written language
  • ordinariness and the possibilities of ordinary life in contemporary English language literatures
  • e-romance literature, gender and sexualities
  • postcolonial English language literature
  • contemporary US poetry and reading for emotion
  • discourses of sustainable development; language of politics; language of advertising
  • code-switching and other language contact phenomena past and present
  • linguistic landscapes
  • online-interaction; relationship between language and interaction
  • translation technology, including machine translation; the uses of technology in the translation workplace and its effects on translators’ work; quality in translation technology
  • translators in history; cultural and social impact of translation
  • translation of allusions and heterolingualism
  • discourses of sustainable development; language of politics; language of advertising
  • code-switching and other language contact phenomena past and present
  • linguistic landscapes
  • online-interaction; relationship between language and interaction
  • translation technology, including machine translation; the uses of technology in the translation workplace and its effects on translators’ work; quality in translation technology
  • translators in history; cultural and social impact of translation
  • translation of allusions and heterolingualism

Projects

Academic Lexis in L2 Speech and Writing

In this longitudinal project, we aim to investigate the development of learners’ vocabulary in spoken and written language. We will focus on phraseological units (for instance, collocations and words and word groups expressing epistemic modality) that have been found to be challenging for advanced learners but are also important to improve the fluency of spoken and written language. We will study how these features develop in writing and speech. We have collected data from various academic communicative tasks (essays, reports, presentations). At the same time we focus on the effect of the native language or academic discipline on the development of academic lexis.

For further information, contact University Lecturer Pekka Lintunen.

Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency (CAF) in L2 English

The CAF project focuses on the development of spoken and written learner language. Complexity, accuracy and fluency are currently seen as the most important quality measures of successful language use and can be studied separately or in relation to one another. Researchers within the project have gathered data to compile a corpus of L2 English learner language from various educational levels. This project has also been continued in the more detailed project on Fluency in Spoken Learner English.

For more information, contact University Lecturer Pekka Lintunen.

Digiage Learners as Learners of English

Foreign language learning takes places nowadays in hybrid learning contexts, that is, in formal education and in connection with informal leisure activities. In this project we are interested in the experiences of digiage learners: how much do they feel they have learnt English while, for instance, surfing online or playing digital games, what kinds of digital learner types can be identified, and what kinds of learning preferences do learners have? English is often acquired naturalistically during leisure activities, but these learning contexts are not always identified as potential environments and opportunities for learning English.

For further information, contact University Lecturer Pekka Lintunen.

Fluency in Spoken Learner English

Fluency is a central goal for second/foreign language learners. Fluency can be understood broadly as general language proficiency or narrowly as an aspect of second language that can be investigated with temporal measures (such as speech rhythm and pausing). In this project we treat fluency as a feature of learner language along with accuracy and complexity. The objective is to investigate fluency and disfluency features in the speech of learners of different ages and proficiency levels. Second language fluency can be influenced by general second language proficiency, first language proficiency, individual learner characteristics and contextual features. These features will be focused on in this project.

For further information, contact University Lecturer Pekka Lintunen.

Framing Text: The Dynamics of Paratextual Communication during a Media Shift • Paratekstuaalinen viestintä keski- ja uuden ajan alun mediamurroksessa: lukemisen ohjaamisen muuttuvat strategiat

This project investigates how the shift from manuscript to print influenced the linguistic and visual strategies used in the framing of texts, and how these strategies vary depending on the medium and genre of the text. Both linguistic and visual promotional strategies commonly occur in prologues, blurbs and other paratextual elements surrounding the text. We analyse these strategies in early English texts of ca. 1400–1600, aiming to reveal how they were used by text producers to influence what and how people read. We combine linguistic analysis of metadiscourse with the study of visual and material features of texts. This approach provides a new cross-disciplinary framework for studying promotional discourse in historical transmedial data. We expect our findings to be relevant also for the study of the current medial shift to digital texts, and test this hypothesis by conducting a contrastive study of 21st-century printed and digital blurbs.

For further information, please contact Professor Matti Peikola.

Graphic Literacies: Tables and Diagrams as Tools for Constructing Knowledge in Early English Books • Kuvioiden lukemisen taito: taulukot ja kaaviot tiedon rakentamisen välineenä keski- ja uuden ajan murroksessa

This project studies the visual means by which knowledge was presented, constructed and mediated in English handwritten and printed books in the 15th and 16th centuries, and how these means and the literacy practices they entail were verbalised in reader instruction. Medieval and early modern texts contain a variety of visual elements aiding knowledge construction: tables, diagrams, calendars, lists etc. They are typically found in scientific texts, but occur also in various other genres and domains in which information is transmitted. These elements are situated in the ‘grey area’ between text and image, which has largely marginalised them in earlier research. Previous studies on graphic elements in early European books have largely focused on material in Latin. Although highly relevant for understanding how knowledge was disseminated, the transmission and adaptation of the graphic elements for vernacular readers has received very little attention. This topic is in the focus of the Graphic Literacies project.

For further information, please contact Professor Matti Peikola.

L2 English Pronounciation Skills: Focus on the Learner, Process and Skills

The pronunciation of English is often challenging for Finnish learners. Pronunciation differs from other language skills in the sense that in involves both cognitive and fine motor skills. Knowledge of the target language sound structure and features of spoken language facilitate learner development. In this project we approach the pronunciation of English from various perspectives: we analyse the features of English pronounced by Finnish learners, second language pronunciation learning as a process, the effects of learner characteristics and beliefs on pronunciation learning, pronunciation teaching methods and the effect of pronunciation feedback.

For further information, contact University Lecturer Pekka Lintunen.

The Rise of Romance

The Rise of Romance project studies the English-language popular e-romance’s formula, format, readers and writers in the electronic literary marketplace today. Through a corpus approach of New Adult erotic romance literature, the project focuses on the affective, emotional and gendered nature of producing and consuming as well as reading and writing of romance literature.The project examines, how the ebook format, the romance formula, readers and writers form a dynamic network, each influencing the ways in which literature is produced, marketed, sold and consumed. The results of the project will produce new information of how the e-romance as a popular form of literature brings about social well-being, profit and satisfaction to those involved with it.

For more information contact University Lecturer Elina Valovirta.

The Strategic Cultural Recycling and the Transnational Circulation of Literature

The Strategic Cultural Recycling and the Transnational Circulation of Literature project participates in the highly topical debate on interaction between cultures. The project approaches different cultures as composites. No culture exists in isolation from others, but they continually borrow from one another. Dominant cultures appropriate from others, and minority cultures borrow and recycle elements from dominant and other cultures. The aim of the project is to open the contradictory concept of cultural appropriation. We probe the emancipatory and critical potential of especially cultural recycling as a way for minority cultures to produce alternatives to national and canonical literatures. The project analyzes a variety of materials such as literature, comics and different media texts to show how cultural recycling questions the power hierarchies widespread in different cultural fields.

Contact Professor Joel Kuortti for more information.

Päättyneet viimeaikaiset hankkeet

Multilingualism in the Long Twelfth Century

This post-doctoral project focused on multilingual practices in texts written in England between the late 11th century and the mid-13th century. The period was characterised by the changing linguistic landscape after the Norman Conquest of England. However, the texts of the period contain more interplay between English and Latin than English and the French of the Normans: texts in both languages are included in many manuscripts, and individual texts contain code-switching from English into Latin, but also vice versa. The project also ventured into the question of intra-textual translation and the visual pragmatics of code-switching.

Research in the field is ongoing also after the end of the funded project.

For more information, please contact Dr Janne Skaffari

> The project's website

Out of the Ordinary: Challenging Commonplace Concepts in Anglophone Literatures

This project focused on that which has been regarded as ordinary, known, self-evident and formulaic. We considered the ways in which a generic form such as the Prairie novel, diasporic narrative, bildungsroman or chick lit harnesses the fictional reality it represents for stereotyping otherness. Our claim was that by looking at that which is perceived as familiar – the poetics of the familiar – we gain access to how otherness becomes defined. The project produced several articles and an anthology Thinking with the Familiar in Contemporary Literature and Culture ‘Out of the Ordinary’ (forthcoming 2019).

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2014–2017

Contact Professor  Joel Kuortti for more information.

Recent publications