Helsinki Finnish: diversity, social identity and linguistic attitudes in an urban context

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description (abstract)

The project investigates the diversity in Finnish spoken in Helsinki. We will mainly concentrate on one eastern Helsinki suburb which represents well eastern suburbs: it has a socially heterogeneous population, both long-time inhabitants and newcomers, the number of immigrants being relatively high. In order to give voice to the speakers and get a more profound understanding of their life worlds and sociolinguistic realities, we study the diversity through a number of social groups and contexts in which we do extensive ethnographic fieldwork.

The project has three primary goals: 1) to produce new information on linguistic
variation of Finnish in multilingual Helsinki; 2) to investigate linguistic attitudes and language awareness of speakers; and 3) to produce new information on ways in which speakers express their social identities. Theoretically and methodologically, the project will combine different types of data with current research interests in research on linguistic variation, interaction and linguistic attitudes. Diversity is thus studied by using several theoretical frameworks (interactional sociolinguistics, variation analysis, folk linguistics; linguistic
conversation analysis and linguistic ethnography). The common denominator is an understanding of language and social meaning making as a dynamic process taking place in and through (inter)acting in everyday life.

The social groups being studied vary from women’s Bible study group to different youth groups. In most of the sub-projects, the researchers will do extensive, long-term ethnographic fieldwork. Key actors in the area will also be interviewed (community workers, police, church workers etc.).

The project will gather and make use of data from different sources: i) ethnographic fieldnotes, ii) video and audio recordings of interactions, including interviews and iii) questionnaires and test material. The specific phenomena to be studied vary according to the sub-project. They range from phonological, morphological and lexical choices to syntactic-semantic and pragmatic means of meaning making, as well to linguistic attitudes.

The project consists of the following subareas: (i) Linguistic variation and linguistic awareness in a Bible study group; (ii) Linguistic variation in the talk by the officials in Social Insurance Offices, focusing especially on directives; (iii) Language practices of adolescents in eastern Helsinki. The youth centre as a community of practice; (iv) The linguistic resources and youth styles in multiethnic Helsinki; (v) Immigrant children’s proficiency in Finnish, and vi) Regional language awareness and mental linguistic boundaries.

The results of the project can be applied both in language teaching and, more generally, in education and community planning.

The project is run in cooperation with the Institute for the Languages of Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.
Effective start/end date01/01/201031/12/2012


  • Suomen Akatemia

Fields of Science

  • 6121 Languages