Finnic oral poetry—runo-songs, regilaul, or Kalevalaic poetry—makes a versatile historical corpus in multiple dialects and archaic forms of Estonian, Finnish, Karelian, Ingrian and Votic languages, building on similar poetics and themes. Yet, both the corpus and research into it have been divided into separate strands based on modern national and linguistic boundaries.
In this project, we will, for the first time, bring together the digitised corpora of over 240 000 texts of Finnic tetrametric oral poetry held in Finnish and Estonian institutions. Thus far, there are mostly hypothetical guesses, based on small very selected data, on how the historical Finnic runosong tradition actually varies and interconnects in terms of poetics, contents, and genres across the regions. Our research questions divide into five interrelated parts on 1) thematic networks, 2) formulaic intertextuality, 3) oral-literary circuits, 4) poetic variation and 5) regional styles across the Finnic corpus. Combining expertise on datasets and methods both in folklore and computational studies, we will develop humanistically relevant computational approaches to track the occurrence and interplay of contentual, linguistic and poetic features across the corpus, and analyse these in relation to regional traditions and recording history.
Compared to earlier works in computational analysis of texts, the complexity of Finnic corpus is at the top of the scale both in terms of linguistic, thematic, and poetic variation, and of historical biases. Overcoming this complexity will require combining source-critical reflections, computational methods and interpretive manual analysis into a coherent unity, in close cooperation between humanistic and computational scholars. Doing this, the project will also advance theoretical and practical perspectives in digital humanities.
The project will make the Finnic corpus more usable, elaborate theoretical discussions on the variation of oral tradition, advance digital approaches in humanities, and present novel computational methods to complicated linguistic settings, also suitable for other kinds of verbal arts in small or poetic languages. Creating data-driven readings and taking into account some disregarded datasets, genres and features, the project challenges and widens the very basic understandings of Finnic oral poetry, potentially affecting both national and minority identities, and making the corpus more relevant for wider research.
The project creates new perspectives to the wide corpus of Estonian–Karelian–Ingrian–Finnish oral poetry called runo-song, regilaul, and kalevalaic poetry, and new analytical tools for complex linguistic materials, also suitable for other kinds of versatile verbal arts in small or poetic languages. We combine a thorough knowledge of historical data—currently in two countries and four digital corpora—to wide-ranging theoretical discussions and innovative methodological solutions, searching for new ways to conduct computational humanistic research in tight interdisciplinary interaction. Taking into account some disregarded materials and features, we search new perspectives on local poetic cultures, intertextuality, historical continuums and Finnic mythology. This consortium of the Finnish Literature Society and University of Helsinki works in close collaboration with the Estonian Folklore Archives at the Estonian Literary Museum.