Research at the School of Languages and Translation Studies
The School of Languages and Translation Studies is an expert organisation whose members specialise in multidisciplinary research on language systems, the present and past phenomena of individual languages and the general features of human language. Our researchers participate in the various thematic collaborations of the University of Turku: digital futures; cultural memory and social change; children, young people and learning; health, diagnostics and drug development; sea and maritime studies.
Our key research areas include
- digital linguistics
- philology, the history of learning, book history
- linguistic interaction and discourse
- changes in language and writing during periods of cultural transition
- language learning and education
- syntax and lexis
- variation in written and spoken language
- translation studies
- multilingualism and language contacts
- modern literature, especially postcolonial literary studies
The School of Languages and Translation Studies hosts the UTU-Digilang infrastructure, which is a collection of digital corpora and digital tools developed within the School and the Department of Computing.
Research Units and Networks
The Research Unit for Volgaic Languages operates under the department of Finnish Language and Finno-Ugric Languages at the University of Turku. The research unit was initially established as a temporary project in 1993 and it became a permanent institution in 2000.
The Digin research network promotes research on different aspects of digitality as well as in the digital humanities. The network is multidisciplinary and brings together researchers from such areas as language studies, history, media studies, social sciences, computer science and law. We explore digitality and its aspects from various perspectives. For instance, interaction, communication, media and culture in a digital context all feature characteristics that make them different from their non-digital counterparts. In particular, digitality has affected how research materials and data are conceived in the humanities and social sciences. These new kinds of datasets offer novel opportunities while also presenting challenges, as their analysis requires new methods and tools.
Contact person: Veronika Laippala
The Research Network for Translation, Technology and Translated Literature was founded in January 2019. The work done within our research community focuses on professional translation, translation technology and translated literature, as well the intersections of related phenomena, such as professionalization in translation and the relationship between technology and literary translation throughout history. Our research concerns contemporary translation, as well as translation history and the future of translation. Our aim is to influence tomorrow’s translation practices through research, translator training and public communication.
To know who we are, we need to know where we come from. Knowing the history of translation forms a basis for understanding translation today, and current phenomena such as fan translation or technological changes are linked with translation practices of the past. Long-standing research topics also include the societal and cultural role of translation, financial aspects of translation services and literary translation, and professionalism in translation.
Our main research topics are:
- translated literature (both fiction and non-fiction)
- Finnish translation history
- machine translation and translation technology
- translator training
- translation ethics
- translation theory
- language contact
- audiovisual translation
Director and contact person: Kristiina Taivalkoski-Shilov
REMODUS – The (Re-)Making of a Discipline: Digital Transformation and Internationalisation in and Beyond Uralic Studies is part of the KA220-HED Cooperation partnerships in higher education programme. It is being funded for three years (from 1 December 2021 to 30 September 2024) by the EU Erasmus+ Programme.
REMODUS is a network of ten European universities with a department or institute of Uralic (Finno-Ugric) Studies. Our field covers both European nation-state languages (Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian) and a broad spectrum of endangered (minority) languages spoken in diverse multilingual communities. Members of the network are: the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki (Finland), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the University of Hamburg (Germany), Uppsala University (Sweden), the University of Tartu (Estonia), the University of Vienna (coordinator, Austria), Eötvös Loránd University – Budapest and the University of Szeged (Hungary), and the University of Latvia (Latvia).
Our aim is to present our discipline, Uralic studies, as a model for digital transformation, cross- integration, and the internationalisation of a low-volume discipline covering a vast thematic range. In other words, a discipline where few institutions with highly specialised scholars are responsible for a broad range of European languages and cultures. In the process, we want to facilitate the exchange of knowledge within and beyond the traditional boundaries and limitations of academic infrastructures.
Our target groups are students/teachers from Uralic studies and students/teachers from similar disciplines. We organise winter schools and e-learning courses on topics that are not frequently found or taught elsewhere. Together, the universities involved offer a pool of expertise concerning Uralic Studies.
See more: https://remodus.univie.ac.at/
The Centre for Language Learning Research (Leala) conducts multidisciplinary research, utilises a broad range of data sets and applies various research methods. The research conducted at Leala focuses on second/foreign language learning in particular. Researchers at the Centre come from different departments at the School of Languages and Translation Studies (English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Scandinavian languages and Spanish). Our research also belongs to the University of Turku’s thematic research profile “Children, young people and learning”.
Contact: Minna Maijala, minmai_@_utu.fi
The Centre for the Study of Language and Wellbeing LaWe aims to support, advance and promote research that focuses on the interconnection between wellbeing and language. In addition, the Centre intends to enhance the application of this kind of research in ways that serve and improve our societies. We approach wellbeing in a broad sense; in our view, the relevance of language and interaction for wellbeing can be witnessed for example in the role that language and interaction plays in identity formation, health, schooling, culture and diversity, social relationships, social participation, access to goods, resources and power, and the relationship between a society and its environment. The Centre is multidisciplinary and has an open policy regarding its databases and methods.
Contact person: Jenny Paananen
Since 2013, the network for code-switching and language contact research has brought together researchers from across the university who work on topics related to multilingual practices, language contact phenomena past and present and contact linguistics in general. Particular attention is paid to written manifestations of language contact. Many of the network's members work on code-switching – the use of two or more languages in the same communicative situation – as evidenced in older texts, but other topics and approaches are also welcome. The network organises seminars in which the researchers share ideas, present work in progress and plan future research activities, and provides a community for scholars who work at different departments.
> Contact person: Janne Skaffari
The Multilingual Turku (MTurku) network brings together researchers and students who are interested in the multilingual practices that occur in Turku and its surrounding regions in Southwest Finland. Our aim is to produce research-based knowledge on the linguistic landscapes of Turku, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and to communicate that knowledge in scholarly and popular publications. We arrange events and seminars, and we collaborate actively in the research and teaching that are conducted within the local public sector. The themes that are addressed by the researchers who are associated with MTurku include
- the languages spoken and written in the Turku region at different times and in various contexts
- multilingualism, multiculturalism and migration
- choice and the use of language by individuals, communities and institutions
- language contacts and conflicts, contact-induced variation and change
- crossing linguistic borders, translation and interpreting
- forgotten, lost or invisible languages
- language teaching, learning and acquisition
- names, linguistic landscapes, language ideologies and attitudes
Contact persons: Leena Kolehmainen, Mari-Liisa Varila, Matti Peikola, Paula Sjöblom, Janne Skaffari
The aim of the FI-DACH research network, established in 2019, is to deepen and expand research and knowledge of cultural relations between Finland (FI) and German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland = DACH). The network brings together researchers of Finnish and German language and culture as well as translation scholars from the universities of Turku, Graz, Greifswald and Cologne. The aim of the research network is to support the study of German and Finnish language and further scientific doctoral education.
Contact person: professor Leena Kolehmainen
The TurkuNLP Group is a group of researchers at the University of Turku as well as the UTU graduate school (UTUGS). The main focus of our research are various aspects of natural language processing / language technology and digital linguistics, ranging from corpus annotation and analysis to machine learning theory and applications. The main application areas we've been focusing on is the domain of biological, biomedical, and clinical text, as well as methods and resources for syntactic and semantic analysis of Finnish and the modeling of web-based language use based on registers or genres.
See more: turkunlp.org/
Contact: Veronika Laippala
The joint project of Finnish universities, Circular Economy Catalysts: From Innovation to Business Ecosystems (CICAT2025) aims to facilitate the transition from linear to circular economy. The multidisciplinary consortium is led by professor Leena Aarikka-Stenroos in Tampere University, and besides Tampere University, the consortium consist of University of Turku, University of Jyväskylä, University of Eastern Finland, Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Turku University of Applied Sciences. The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland, and it is carried out in 2019–2023. The project seeks to identify catalysts that advance the transition, and it searches solutions for companies and regulators to support the transition. One of the catalysts is language which is studied in the University of Turku by senior researchers Paula Sjöblom and Ville Virsu.
More information: https://cicat2025.turkuamk.fi/en/.
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
COPIUS is a strategic partnership funded by Erasmus+ established by nine European universities that constitutes a community of practice within the discipline of Uralic (Finno-Ugric) Studies. Our field covers both European nation-state languages (Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian) and a broad spectrum of endangered (minority) languages spoken in diverse multilingual communities.
Uralic studies is inherently an international discipline, firmly anchored in the tradition of European humanities. As in other disciplines with relatively low student numbers, its institutions are increasingly threatened by rationalization pressures. COPIUS is an initiative to pool our resources, to carry out shared teaching and networking activities (winter schools, summer workshops, e-learning activities, etc.) and to create an online learning platform that will remain accessible beyond the end of our project.
The Strategic Partnership is funded for three years (01.09.2018-31.08.2021) by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union with a total volume of EUR 248,905.00.
For more information see https://www.univie.ac.at/copius/index.php.
The language departments of the University of Turku have a long tradition in compiling specialised digital linguistic corpora, and these corpora already have a dedicated base of domestic and international users who represent various special fields.
The Digilang project (2018–2021) focuses on the further development of these digital databases and corpora and aims to improve their usability, accessibility and visibility by collecting them under the brand new Digilang Portal, which will become a permanent and integral part of the research infrastructure of the School of Languages and Translation Studies (SLT). This, in turn, will help strengthen the brand of the University of Turku and the SLT as a developer of digital linguistic corpora.
The following corpora are currently under development in the Digilang project:
- Linguistic Variation in the Province of Satakunta in the 21st Century
- Regional and Social Variation in Finnish Prosody
- Fennougristic corpora
- The Corpora of Academic Finnish
- Universal Parsebanks
- The LOG Corpus
Contact person: Tommi Kurki
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
Ethically Responsive and Sustainable Language Teaching, funded by the Kone Foundation, is a four-year project launched in the School of Languages and Translation Studies at the University of Turku, Finland in January 2021. The cornerstone of the project lies in the question of how the principles of ethics and sustainability can be promoted in language teaching and pre-service teacher education.
Taking into account the aspects of sustainable development and language equality is challenging not only in language teaching but also in pre-service language teacher education. The purpose of the project is to research the essence of ethics and sustainable development principles and how they can be promoted in language teaching and pre-service language teacher education. Based on this research, we will develop engaging learning activities for language learners and pedagogic solutions for pre-service teachers and teachers, which promote ethical conduct, sustainable development and language equality.
Project director: Minna Maijala, minna.maijala(at)utu.fi
EKKO Team: Leena Maria Heikkola, Salla-Riikka Kuusalu, Päivi Laine, Maarit Mutta, Katja Mäntylä, Judi Rose, and Veijo Vaakanainen
More information: https://sites.utu.fi/ekko/en/
Project funding: Kone Foundation 2021–2024
This project examines the impact of individual speaking style in L1 (first language) and cross-linguistic differences (transfer) on second language (L2) speech. More specifically, we examine Swedish-speaking university students’ fluency in their L1 and its effect on L2 speech fluency. In the project, speech samples from a comparison group of L1 Finnish speakers are also collected to examine fluency across several languages in the participants’ repertoire (L2 Swedish and English). The L1s examined in the project are thus Swedish and Finnish, and the target languages are Finnish, Swedish, and English. In the project, we will therefore be able to compare multilingual speakers’ spoken language features across different target languages and L1s. The results will contribute to the teaching and assessment Swedish as a second language and L1 Swedish speakers’ learning of additional languages.
Project Leader: Pekka Lintunen
Funding: The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland 2020–2022
For more information: https://sites.utu.fi/flowlang/projects/multifluency/
The project focuses on fluency and disfluency in second language speech. Our approach combines methods from the fields of second language acquisition research and psycholinguistics and employs a varied data set (including cognitive experiments, speech samples, and questionnaire data) to scrutinize second language fluency and factors affecting it. Our FlowLang research group includes researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, and our aim is to reconceptualize fluency to provide a new framework for future studies.
The emphasis is on examining the effect of task types (monologue, dialogue) and individual speaker characteristics (cognitive processes, experienced level of anxiety, and first language fluency) on second language fluency and disfluency. The results benefit second language learning and teaching, language assessment as well as the development of digital second language learning applications.
Project Leader: Pekka Lintunen
Funding: Academy of Finland 2020-2024
For more information: https://sites.utu.fi/flowlang/en/
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
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 and 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.
Project leader: Kendra Willson
Funding agency: The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland 2019–2022
This project combines the long traditions of corpus linguistics and the latest innovations of natural language processing (NLP) to explore web registers—situationally defined Internet text varieties such as news, blogs or how-to pages—on a massively multilingual scale. Specifically, the project
- analyzes language-specific differences of registers and creates a data-driven description of the full range of web registers in six languages,
- develops machine learning methods for large-scale register modeling and identification in massively cross/multi-lingual settings, and
- automatically identifies registers in Universal Parsebanks, a language resource spanning 100 billion words and 64 languages.
Thereby, the project provides critical knowledge about online communication and tools with which to develop web data from simple masses of raw text toward organized resources with rich metadata.
Researcher: Veronika Laippala
Funding: Academy of Finland 2020—2024
A sharp crystallization or a flat triviality? Municipality slogans from the viewpoint of linguistics and marketing is a research project, the purpose of which is to investigate the linguistic features in the slogans of Finnish municipalities and to find out how slogans are utilized as part of city-brand communication. This multidisciplinary project started in the University of Turku in October 2020, and it is funded by the Foundation for Municipal Development. The project group consists of four researchers from the universities of Turku and Helsinki. The leader is senior lecturer Ulla Hakala from Turku School of Economics, and the School of Languages and Translation Studies is represented in the project by senior lecturer Paula Sjöblom.
The web pages of the project (in Finnish and in Swedish): https://sites.utu.fi/kuntasloganit/fi/.
The project combines linguistics, natural language processing and machine learning in order to analyse and automatically detect the different text varieties that are used on the internet. By distinguishing between e.g. user manuals, news articles on recent events and texts that also feature the author’s opinion, the project reveals crucial information on language use on the internet and improves the accessibility of the massive amount of information available online. As a practical outcome, the project detects the different text varieties used in a collection of billions of words of online texts written in Finnish, Swedish, French and English that were compiled by the research group during previous research efforts. This has significantly improved the usability of the collections.
Funding and period: Emil Aaltonen Foundation 2019-2021
Project leader: Veronika Laippala
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
The URKO (Uralic triangulation) consortium at the University of Turku is being funded by the Academy of Finland through the DIGIHUM programme from 2020 to 2022. URKO aims to conduct interdisciplinary studies involving human (pre)history in the Uralic language area and increase the understanding of the cultural and genetic diversity of this area.
We are building highly visible and user-oriented online interfaces to several currently emerging open-access databases, which include i) typological (structural) data of Uralic languages, ii) spatial data on language distribution, archaeological artefacts, genetic variation and the environmental history of the Uralic speaking area, and iii) archaeological Stone, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts in Finland, with links to the cultural environment register portal.
Furthermore, comprehensive teaching modules will be developed around these databases and interfaces, introducing a data-driven paradigm to a new generation of scholars.
The project is feasible due to our already established network of interdisciplinary researchers: PIs in the consortium are Professor Päivi Onkamo (Department of Biology, head of the consortium), Professor Sirkka Saarinen (Department of Finnish and Finno-Ugric Languages), Adjunct Professor Harri Tolvanen (Department of Geography and Geology); its coordinator is Outi Vesakoski, PhD.
The databases and methodological innovations will advance the field of digital humanities as a whole, while breakthroughs in the subject field, the interdisciplinary study of human history, will stem from the development of overreaching computational statistical approaches for integrating linguistic, cultural and genetic data, that is, implementing historical “triangulation”. URKO focuses on the Uralic speaking area, a field that is understudied compared to, for example, Indo-European speaking areas. High-quality databases and interfaces, and cutting-edge analyses based on them will help integrate Northeastern Europe, especially the Baltic Sea region, into global perspectives on human history. URKO is a part of one of the six thematic collaborations in research at the University of Turku, Cultural memory and societal change.
See also https://sites.utu.fi/urko/en/
- Multilingualism in the Long Twelfth Century
- LALI (Language and literacy learning through art) (2017–2020)
- Interaction and Variation in Pluricentric Languages (IVIP) (Riksbankens jubileumsfond, 2013–2020)
- Construal of Means and Time (COMET) (2015–2020)
- Arkisyn: A Morphosyntactically Annotated Corpus of Everyday Finnish-language Conversations (2013–2019)
- Academic Finnish as a Challenge for a Non-native Learner (2015–2018)
- The unexplored contexts of language contact: translation and interpretation (2015–2018)
- Social media from Nordic to global contexts (SoNoGlo) (2016–2018)
- INFUSE – Integration Finno-Ugric Studies in Europe, partnership established by eight European universities (Erasmus+, 2016–2018)
- Targeted Teaching for Advanced Finnish Learners (Kone Foundation, 2016–2018)
- Finnish Internet Parsebank (2013–2017)
- Units of grammar and interaction (Suomen Akatemia, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 2014–2017)
- Out of the Ordinary: Challenging Commonplace Concepts in Anglophone Literature (Academy of Finland, 2014–2017)
- Online Udmurt–Finnish–Udmurt dictionary (Kone Foundation, 2015–2016)
- The Regional and Social Variation in Finnish Prosody project (Kone Foundation, 2013–2015)
- Subject expression in Finnish and other Finnic Languages (Academy of Finland, 2011–2014)
- TIME: Translation Research Training. An Integrated and Intersectoral Model for Europe (European Commission, 2011–2014)
- OPTIMALE: Optimising Professional Translator Training in a Multilingual Europe (European Commission, 2011–2013)
- Linguistic Variation in the Province of Satakunta in the 21st Century (Satakunta Regional Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, 2007–2013)
- Language learning and social media: 6 key languages (European Commission, 2010–2012)
- Westh Codex (Finnish Cultural Foundation, 2010–2012)
- Subtitles and language learning, Lifelong Learning programme (European Commission, 2009–2012)
- Silence as Voice: Reempowering the disempowered in contemporary English literatures (Academy of Finland, 2008–2011)
- På väg mot kommunikativ kompetens: tillägnandet av svenskans struktur hos finska inlärare (Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 2007–2010)