Research at the Department of Scandinavian Languages

Research in the Department of Scandinavian Languages focuses on language history, onomastics, variation of spoken and written language, Swedish language learning, interaction, and pragmatics. 

The following thematic collaborations of the University of Turku are represented in the Department's research: digital futures; children, young people and learning; cultural memory and societal change. Strong areas in our research include: 

  • digital linguistics 
  • institutional interaction 
  • language history and philology 
  • grammar and lexicon 
  • multilingualism 
  • spoken and written Swedish in Finland 
  • Swedish as a second language

Research projects

Interaction and Variation in Pluricentric Languages (IVIP)

Pluricentric languages are languages spoken in more than one country. But do people interact in the same way in different countries simply because they speak the same language? Or do the communicative patterns vary? We know very little about this, which is exactly what the program Interaction and Variation in Pluricentric Languages investigates. The program compares the same type of interactions in similar environments in Sweden and Finland, focussing on the service, education and healthcare domains, where much of the interaction outside the private domain takes place. An important part of the program is to contribute to the international theory development for the study of pluricentric languages. Using theories and methods such as conversation analysis and ethnography of communication the program will be able to describe and explain pluricentric language phenomena that previous research has not been able to identify. In this way the program contributes to the development of the field of variational pragmatics while also gaining new insights into what are unique patterns in Finland Swedish and Sweden Swedish conversations. 

The program is coordinated by Stockholm University and the other participating institutions are University of Helsinki, University of Turku and the Institute for Language and Folklore, Gothenburg.

Project leaders: Camilla Wide (Turku), Catrin Norrby (Stockholm), Jan Lindström (Helsinki) and Jenny Nilsson (Gothenburg)

Funding: Riksbankens jubileumsfond, 2013–2020

> Read more about the project on its website

Jöns Buddes version av Mechtilds uppenbarelser. Forskning och översättning

Post doctoral project

Researcher: PhD Mikko Kauko

For more information, see Mikko Kauko's page at the UTU Research Portal

Funding: Koneen Säätiö 2019–2021

Formulaic sequences and metalinguistic knowledge in second and foreign language learning

The project studies what kinds of formulaic sequences are used and how they can be identified in morphologically different languages (Swedish, Finnish and English). A formulaic sequence is a sequence of two or more morphemes or words (e.g. “enligt min åsikt”, “mielestäni”, “in my opinion”) that language learners learn as an unanalysed whole and also store in their memory as a single whole. The present understanding is that these sequences play an important role in the learning of both vocabulary and grammatical structures, and this is why they have been studied extensively around the world, though mainly in L2 English. Besides L2 English, this project focuses on the two domestic languages of Finland, Finnish and Swedish. The hypothesis is that the different morphological structures of the studied languages affect the occurrence and the identification of the formulaic sequences among learners.

Additionally, we are interested in learners’ use of explicit grammar rules in the writing process. Thus, this project focuses on some of the core aspects in language learning, that is formulaic sequences that intertwine lexicon and grammar, and learners’ metalinguistic knowledge that is concretised through their reflection on the use of explicit grammar rules and their use of metalanguage.

The subjects are Swedish- and Finnish-speaking upper secondary school and university students from Finland. The data consist of texts written in Swedish (L1/L2), Finnish (L1/L2) and English (L2). Some of the subjects participate in a retrospective stimulated recall interview.

Results have been reported at several national and international conferences and in academic journals. For more information: https://sites.utu.fi/nordiska-forskarseminariet/helsekvenser-i-tre-morfologiskt-olika-inlararsprak/

Project leader and researcher: Sinikka Lahtinen

Funding: The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland 2017–2021

Spatial Discourses in Pre-Modern Finland

Spatial Discourses in Pre-Modern Finland

The project analyses how places and rooms were spoken of and described in Finland during the 15th-17th centuries. The survey combines history and linguistic sciences and focuses on location descriptions.

The old-fashioned location descriptions could be short and simple, and sometimes solely place names could indicate locations. But the descriptions could also be complicated because modern address systems did not exist yet. People had to utilise e.g. their neighbours or neighbouring properties or owners of such or public buildings as ‘landmarks’ or they made references to natural elements in the property's surroundings. Occasionally, also administrative areas where mentioned. Sometimes location descriptions were composed with several different elements. Even today, such descriptions exist, but they are used primarily as supplements to official addresses and only in informal contexts.

Location descriptions are interesting per se, as cultural historical phenomena, but they are important also because they reflect larger mental structures and a researcher analysing them can find out to what extent physical space was perceived as human-owned and to what extent nature dominated the worldviews of the pre-modern Finns. Location descriptions seem also to be related to gender as well as socio-economic and geographical background. Another important aspect is, of course, the role of language contacts in formulating location descriptions.

Project leader and researcher: Marko Lamberg

Funding and duration: The project is ongoing in 2017–2021 and it has been funded by the Swedish Literature Society in Finland, the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and the Turku Institute for Advanced Sciences.

Invisible forces: communication with the supernatural in Swedish- and Finnish-language folk traditions from Finland’s bilingual coastal areas

Research group: Joonas Ahola FT, Jesse Barber MA, Karolina Kouvola TeolM, Kendra Willson PhD.

Funding agency: Svenska kulturfonden, 2019-2022

In this project, we compare folk traditions from Swedish- and Finnish-speaking communities in Finland’s bilingual coastal regions. The emphasis is on interaction: how people communicate with and about supernatural forces. We examine different types of material:

  • belief legends and folk poems that tell of encounters with supernatural beings and about the actions of ritual specialists
  • charms
  • magical symbols and other types of folk epigraphic practice

The approach is functional: what purposes do these types of communication serve in the community?

The project also incorporates source criticism and history of scholarship. Although Finnish and Swedish speakers have lived side by side for centuries, Swedish and Finnish-language folk traditions have generally been collected, archived, and studied separately. This project highlights affinities and contemplates to what extent it is possible to speak of a common tradition that is expressed in different languages.

Earlier research projects

Grammatical Competence: A Comparative Study of Noun Phrases and Word order in Written Swedish by Finnish-speaking Early Total Immersion Students and Non-immersion Student (Eeva-Liisa Nyqvist, TIAS 2017–2019)

Finno-Ugric Elements in Runic Inscriptions (Kendra Willson, TIAS 2015–2017)

Experimental Approaches to the Study of Language Ideologies in Swedish-language Finland (Therese Leinonen, Academy of Finland 2013–2016)

N'CLAV: Nordic Collaboration on Language Variation Studies (Camilla Wide, NordForsk 2010–2012)

Towards Communicative Competence: Finnish-speaking Learners' Acquisition of the Structure of Swedish (Marketta Sundman, Eeva-Liisa Nyqvist, Anne-Maj Åberg, Society of Swedish Literature in Finland 2007–2010)

Recent publications