Ilona Herlin
Humanist of the day

Ilona Herlin

Ilona Herlin is a linguist for whom the study of Finnish grammar is above all the study of meaning. Through her research she has found her own area in ecolinguistics, or the mapping of language and nature terminology. Herlin’s passions are linguistic research, intellectual meandering, developing the operations of foundations, and kindling interdisciplinary projects.

Ilona Herlin

Maria Ilona Herlin
Born April 8, 1965, Kirkkonummi

MA 1992 and PhD 1998 (Finnish Language), University of Helsinki
Docent at the University of Helsinki 2006-

Independent scholar 2006-
Doctoral assistant at the University of Helsinki 2006
Postdoctoral researcher at the Academy of Finland 1995–1998

Publications, research projects and other scientific activities

Research topics: Finnish grammar, in particular the relationship between sentences, infinitives, particles and personalities, the position of empathy in language, language and nature

Smiling Girl Statue for students with good friendship skills 1972
2nd place in the Masala school district ski and temperance writing competition 1973
Best poster at the Finnish Conference of Linguistics, Helsinki 2002

Written by Ilona Herlin (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by
Joe McVeigh

As a student, I had many opportunities to change my mind while choosing my subject. I remember studying a little in the Kallio library for the entrance exams for the Political Science Faculty and the Agriculture and Forestry Faculty. With the former subject, I hated the charts and graphs, and while combing through the latter I started to feel the pain that certain beetles have of living between the bark and the tree to such an extent that I needed to get up from my seat and circle the reading room. Lauri Hakulinen’s book Suomen kielen rakenne ja kehitys (‘The structure and evolution of the Finnish language’) fell off the shelf and into my hand, so I opened it up and started to read it. The world and life started to become organized: I had found my subject.

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I am on the Board of Trustees of the Kone Foundation. The foundation’s basic nature of charitable work is positive, but maybe I have not been there more time than is required of the vice chairperson. The foundation supports the humanities, social sciences and environmental research, as well as art and culture.

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My dream is to get people to understand the cultural nature of environmental problems and to get the solution to the problems from the humanist point of view. As a multi-humanist I am happy to work with researchers in my field.

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