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Fred Karlsson

Fred Göran Karlsson
Born February 17, 1946, Turku

Master of Arts 1969, Åbo Akademi University (Finnish language) and University of Turku (phonetics)
Master of Arts 1972 (linguistics), University of Chicago
PhD 1974 (phonetics), University of Turku
Docent in Finnish language 2012–, University of Helsinki

Emeritus professor of general linguistics 2012–, University of Helsinki
Professor of general linguistics 1980–2012, University of Helsinki
Research fellow 1976–78, Academy of Finland
Acting associate professor of Finnish language 1975, Åbo Akademi University
Lecturer in phonetics 1973–74, University of Gothenburg
Acting professor of phonetics 1973, University of Turku
Research associate 1969, University of Jyväskylä

Research areas: phonetics, morphology, syntax, automatic syntactical analysis, linguistic complexity, corpus linguistics, the history of linguistics, Finnish grammar

Membership of scholarly societies
The Finnish Society of Science and Letters 1984
Academia Europaea 1988
The Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala 2005
The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities 2008

The Finnish Information Processing Association prize for best computing product of 1988 (together with Kimmo Koskenniemi)
Oskar Öflund Foundation prize 1988
Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters’ E. J. Nyström prize 1996
‘Professor of the year’ 1998, Finnish Union of University Professors
Commander of the Order of the lion of Finland 2003
Finnish Cultural Foundation award of merit 2013
A Man of Measure. Festschrift in Honour of Fred Karlsson on his 60th Birthday. Special Supplement to SKY Journal of Linguistics, Volume 19, 2006. Urho Määttä and Jussi Niemi (eds.) Turku: The Linguistic Association of Finland

Photo: Sylvi Soramäki-Karlsson
Written by Fred Karlsson (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Administrative Splashes

For seven years I was the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Collaboration with the Head of Administration, Leena Barros, ran seamlessly. My Deanship ended in 2003. Those seven years saw performance negotiations with 19 departments. These events were colourful, to say the least. Once a disappointed departmental representative came into my office to declare that “the Dean is acting like a Mafioso.”

After another meeting, Professor Merete Mazzarella was inspired to utter the following: “Den där Fred Karlsson är nog en trevlig typ. Att ha resultatförhandlingar med honom är som att besöka en skicklig tandläkare. Först efteråt märker man att två tänder är borta.” (‘That Fred Karlsson seems like a nice type. Hearing the results of the negotiations from him is like visiting a skilled dentist. It is only afterwards that you notice that two teeth are gone’[mb1] )

For eight years I was a member of the Small Consistorium (senate) of the University of Helsinki, ending my term in 2009. There was no shortage of drama. The most memorable event was perhaps the attempt by rector Kari Raivio to divide the Faculty of Arts into two: languages and other subjects. The majority at the Faculty of Arts were opposed to the idea, including myself in my role in the Consistorium. Just before the deciding vote, rector Raivio published a long column in the University newspaper titled “Humanist adrift?” That humanist was me. The project was voted down by 17 votes to seven.

Photo: Salme Vanhanen, Helsingin yliopistomuseo.

The idea of moving the Department of Translation Studies from Kouvola to Helsinki often came up, the first time being in 1993. Students from Kouvola organised a May Day protest in Helsinki that year. Part of the protest involved hanging a Dean Freddy Karlsson doll. The doll was slowly lowered from the third floor of the University Main Building as the crowd of students cheered on. On May 13, 1993, an entire page in the University newspaper was taken up by the headline “Who Hanged Fred Karlsson?” The doll is currently on display in the Helsinki University Museum as part of the exhibition “The Power of Thought—The Story of the University of Helsinki 1640-2015”.

Ylioppilaslehti 13.5.1993.

The move was attempted again at the beginning of the 21st century. Once again a student protest ensued, this time before the decisive meeting by the Consistorium. Around forty students from Kouvola formed a ‘guard of honour’, through which members of the Consistorium had to make their way into the meeting hall while the students rhythmically chanted “No, no, no—Fred brings woe.” However, the department’s transfer did not take place during my time.

Photo: Eero Roine, Yliopisto-lehti.

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