Eemil Nestor Setälä
Humanist of the day

Eemil Nestor Setälä

E.N. Setälä was a scholar of Finnish and Finno-Ugric languages. He is best known for his Suomen kielen lauseoppi (‘The syntax of Finnish’), which he had written even before he began his university studies. Setälä was Professor of Finnish Language and Literature in the University between 1893 and 1929. He also enjoyed a long career in politics, and was particularly influential in areas of cultural and language policy.

Eemil Nestor Setälä

Born 27 February 1864, Kokemäki. Died 8 February, 1935, Helsinki.

Master of Arts, 1886, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1887 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1890, Imperial Alexander University
Docent, Finno-Ugric Languages, 1887–1893

Professor of Finnish Language and Literature, 1893–1929, Imperial Alexander University (University of Helsinki after 1919)

Teacher, Finnish Language in Helsinki Läroverket för gossar och flickor (Grammar school for boys and girls), 1884–1887
Member of editorial board, Valvoja journal,1886-, editor-in-chief, 1897–1905
Assistant, Uusi Suometar journal, 1891–1899
Editor-in-chief, Finnisch-ugrische Forschungen periodical, 1901–1935
Full-time Assistant, Helsingin sanomat newspaper, 1905–1917
Chairman, Kaleva Society, 1919–1935

Senator, 1917–1918, Minister of Education, 1925, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1925–1926
Finnish Ambassador to Copenhagen and Budapest, 1927–1930
Chancellor, University of Turku, 1926–1935
Councillor of State, 1934

Photo: Museovirasto
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by John Calton

Apart from excelling at linguistics, Emil Nestor Setälä also played an active part in social affairs as a prolific writer and politician. He is said to have been an enterprising and efficient organiser, outlining Finnish cultural policies and administration as well taking part in legislative work in the newly-independent country…

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Eemil Nestor Setälä is said to have been fascinated by the Finnish language even in his school years, despite having to learn it using a Swedish-language grammar. Setälä and his peers at the Hämeenlinna normal lyceum were bothered by there not existing a grammar in Finnish. Encouraged by his teacher…

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