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Auli Hakulinen

Auli Talvikki Hakulinen
Born March 10, 1941, Helsinki

BA 1965 (Finno-Ugristics), licentiate 1971 (General Linguistics), University of Helsinki
PhD 1976 (General Linguistics), University of Turku

Assistant Professor of Finnish 1981–1991, Professor 1991–2006, University of Helsinki
Academy Professor 2001–2004
Research assistant in the text linguistics research group at the Academy of Finland 1974–1977, University of Turku
Visiting researcher at MIT, Spring 1973
General linguistics assistant 1968–1971, University of Helsinki
Research assistant in the Sociological Research Unit at London University 1967–1968
Finnish language teacher, University of Indiana, 1963–1964

Publications, research projects and other scientific activities
Research areas: syntax, text linguistics, women’ studies, conversation analysis, language and interaction analysis

Significant awards and special achievements:
Kristiina Prize 1986
Maikki Frieberg Award 2002
Finnish Cultural Foundation Award 2005
E. J. Nyström Prize 2007

Photo: Kuva-siskot
Written by Auli Hakulinen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by
Joe McVeigh

The Great Finnish Grammar, my destiny

As a result of many fortunate and unfortunate coincidences, I spent eight years on a rather large project which resulted in the 1,600-page reference work called Iso suomen kielioppi (‘Great Finnish Grammar’). It was put out by the Finnish Literature Society, and what’s even better was that four years later the online version appeared. The grammar brought together two interests in my academic life: linguistics and conversation analysis.

The Great Finnish Grammar team at the Helsinki book fair in 2004.​
The Great Finnish Grammar team at the Helsinki book fair in 2004.​

I had written my PhD on grammar about 30 years earlier and then in 1979 Fred Karlsson and I wrote Nykysuomen lauseoppia (‘A modern Finnish grammar’), which was the result of years of study and devouring theoretical aspects of grammar. Conversation analysis represented a major turning point in my research career; after the 1980s language could no longer be anything to me except cooperation, a dialogue of turn taking.

‘The Great Finnish Grammar’ is a descriptive grammar, not a prescriptive one: nothing objectionable is said about the speakers. Speech is not a degenerate form of the written language. It is structured right down to the last detail, according to Harvey Sacks, the founder of conversation analysis in the 1960s. It is therefore possible to analyse spoken language without using words metaphorically.

I started my section of the ‘Grammar’ by writing the chapter “Partikkelit” (‘Particles’). It is a tribute to those little words, such as ai (‘oh’), sitä (‘so’), nyt (‘now’), and joo (‘yeah’), which had traditionally been left out of descriptions of sentence constructions, but which hold important and intersubjective meanings for speakers in a conversation. Our grammar is extensive even though it is referential and generalized; its one goal was to be a synthesis of previous research, but in many ways it was a starting point.

Conversation analysis research continues in the ‘Intersubjectivity in Interaction’ research project.

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