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 and interpreting studies include the history of translation, literary and audiovisual translation, translator and workplace studies, including research on translation technology and on training. In addition, code-switching is a topic that unites researchers in all areas. These five research areas – historical linguistics and philology, discourse studies, second language acquisition, literature, translation and interpreting studies – are  presented in more detail below. Research is also increasingly interdisciplinary.

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
  • discourses of sustainability, language and politics, language and identity, language and racism
  • 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
  • code-switching and other language contact phenomena past and present
  • linguistic landscapes
  • online-interaction; relationship between language and interaction
  • translation technology, including machine translation, speech technologies, technology in translation workplace and its effects on translators’ work; quality in translation technology
  • translators in history; cultural and social impact of translation; para- and peritexts
  • translation of allusions and heterolingualism
  • taboo language and swearing
  • translator studies, including and connecting with audiovisual translation and translation technology, translators’ tools and workspaces
  • reception and audience research
  • expertise and professionalization in interpreting

Research in Historical Linguistics, Philology and Discourse Linguistics

In historical linguistics and philology, the Department’s profile comprises a broad range of research in the fields of historical pragmatics and historical discourse linguistics, textual scholarship and the study of multilingualism, from the Old to the Late Modern English period. Our approaches tend to be synchronic and qualitative, characterised by the rich analysis of situational, material and cultural 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 in the early 2000s. Findings made in these projects led to the formation of the Pragmatics on the Page (PoP) research group which combined linguistics with book studies to explore the interplay of verbal and visual/material communication in early English manuscripts and printed texts. This strand is currently being developed further in the Early Modern Graphic Literacies (EModGraL) project funded by the Academy of Finland and the University of Turku for 2021–2025.

Discourse linguistics of present day materials at the Department currently addresses the topics of (European) political discourse, language and identity, linguistic landscapes, language and the environment, online interaction and language and racism. Ongoing projects are mostly based on individual dissertations and our research covers areas of politolinguistics, ecolinguistics, the study of materialized discourses, multimodal discourse analysis, interactional linguistics and digital discourse analysis. We are strongly rooted in functional linguistics and in critical discourse studies. In line with the latter approach, we also attempt to combine research with social activism. This is visible at the moment in the activities related to the language and racism topic via popular publications and involvement in activities of NGOs.

Research in Second Language Acquisition

In second language acquisition, the Department’s profile has been focused on learner language and the characteristics of second language learners. The role of English in Finland challenges the traditional concepts or foreign and second languages. Instead, hybrid learning contexts are common in Finland. We have a strong tradition on spoken learner language research, but research themes also include written learner language, such as vocabulary learning and use, various learner groups, such as advanced learners or non-Finnish background learners of English in Finland, and digital learning and language use contexts, such as telepresence robots in language education.

Research in Literary Studies

Research in literary studies in the Department of English mainly focuses on various aspects of contemporary literatures in English across the globe with a marked focus in postcolonial literatures and theory. This specialization has its roots in Professor John Skinner’s project Fragments of the Past: History, Fiction and Identity in the New English Literatures (Academy of Finland 2004–2007). It was followed by Professor Lydia Kokkola’s project Silence as Voice: Reempowering the Disempowered in Contemporary English Literatures (Academy of Finland 2008–2011). Currently, special fields of interest include the interface between the ordinary and the other (Out of the Ordinary: Challenging Commonplace Concepts in Anglophone Literatures project, Academy of Finland 2014–2017), and the literatures of transnational societies in Canada, the Caribbean, South Asia and the United States. However, research is also conducted on areas such as Britain, the Pacific and South Africa. Ongoing projects vary from individual dissertations to large-scale joint endeavours. The research also extends over departmental and school boundaries, and involves international cooperation with various projects and researchers.

Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies

In translation and interpreting studies, researchers in the department focus on the activities, experiences and training and employment of translators, interpreters and other translatorial actors in Finland from the 19th century to the present day. Within the fields of literary and audiovisual translation, perspectives range from reception and retranslation to language variation (dialogue and spoken language, heterolingualism, taboo language), and para- and peritexts. Studies in translation technology have focused, in particular, on human/machine interfaces such as machine translation and post-editing.


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 Professor Pekka Lintunen.

The Circulation, Transformation, and Reception of Johann Georg Zimmermann’s Von dem Nationalstolze, 1758-1805

The project explores the transnational dimensions of national thought in the Enlightenment period by tracing the trajectory of Von dem Nationalstolze, a substantial essay on the sentiment of national pride written by the Swiss physician Johann Georg Zimmermann (1728–1795). By tracing the essay’s circulation, transformation, and reception in the press, the research aims to show how and why Zimmermann’s translators and reviewers furnished his essay with new meanings. Starting from the premise that the phenomenon of nation-building cannot be understood without historicizing it, the research turns to the methods of translation studies, which enable it to transcend national as well as cultural and linguistic borders.

Researcher: Laura Tarkka

Project funding: Academy of Finland 2021–2024

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 Professor 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 Professor Pekka Lintunen.

Early Modern Graphic Literacies (EModGraL)

This project investigates the use of graphic devices (such as tables and diagrams) in early modern English printed books in order to shed light on the development of vernacular graphic literacies and early strategies of data visualisation. We will 1) map the distribution of different types of graphic devices in different kinds of books and develop a new framework for their classification; 2) determine how target audience and topic influence the use of graphic devices; and 3) establish how linguistic information and graphic devices work together in the context of the page and the whole book, for example through captions and reader instruction. Our findings will reveal what kinds of graphic literacies were associated with graphic devices and how these literacies developed in 1473–1800 – a period characterized by a rapid increase in literacy and a diversification of readers. Our results also contribute to the history of graphic representation of information in books targeted at vernacular readers and elucidate the role of graphic devices in the transmission of knowledge.

Project leader: Matti Peikola

Funding: Academy of Finland 2021–25

More information: project website

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 Professor Pekka Lintunen.

More information: project website

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 Professor Pekka Lintunen.

Romancing the Caribbean: Sea, Sex, and Sustainability in Caribbean Literature and Culture

Romancing the Caribbean studies the conjuncture of sea and sexuality in Caribbean literature and culture in an effort to generate more ecologically sustainable views on both Caribbean seascapes (such as the tourism and cruise ship industries) and sexualities (such as erotic romance literature and sex as a commodity). Through an eclectic corpus of Caribbean women’s writing and popular romance fiction set in the Caribbean, the project focuses on the affective, emotional and gendered nature of the ways in which the literary market has romanced the Caribbean and its seas in recent years. The project expands literary studies by considering the sea, water and seascapes as vital to literary expression, where sustainability questions need to be negotiated.

For more information contact Collegium Fellow 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.

Telepresence Robot Mediated Embodied Interaction in Hybrid Language Learning Environments

This project studies how telepresence robots can be used to support participation in classroom education at a distance. Telepresence robots are remote-controlled moveable devices with videoconferencing capabilities. The project analyses video-recorded language lessons from higher education classrooms in which one or more distance students participate alongside face-to-face students by operating a telepresence robot remotely. The analysis employs multimodal conversation analytic methodology and focuses on how the ability for remote movement is used as a resource for interaction and participation. The results can help establish a clearer picture of the possibilities of telepresence technologies in supporting participation across distance and in increasing equality of access to education for vulnerable groups such as homebound or hospitalized students.
Researcher: Teppo Jakonen
Funding: Academy of Finland 2021—2026

Recently completed projects

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