Jouko Lindstedt
Humanist of the day

Jouko Lindstedt

Jouko Lindstedt is a language professor, but perhaps not your standard language professor. He is a Slavist who doesn’t teach Russian. His specialist subjects are the Slavonic languages, spoken by nearly 100 million Europeans. Lindstedt has spoken Esperanto since 1969, and it’s the second language in the family home.

Jouko Lindstedt

Jouko Sakari Lindstedt
Born July 15, 1955, Helsinki

Bachelor of Arts 1981, Licentiate of Philosophy 1983 and Doctor of Philosophy 1985 (Slavonic Philology), University of Helsinki

Professor of Slavonic Philology 1986-, University of Helsinki
Acting Professor of Slavonic Philology 1985, University of Helsinki

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Research interests: development of Bulgarian and Macedonian as Balkan languages; origins, spontaneous change and nativisation of Esperanto as a language in contact; language policy in the Balkans and the European Union; Old Church Slavonic and early Slavonic studies; South Slavonic Philology; tense, aspect and evidentiality.

Member of the Helsinki Area & Language Studies group, promoting research on linguistic diversity and language ecology and fieldwork on minority-language speech communities.

Photo: Valokuvaamo Helläkoski, Lahti
Written by Jouko Lindstedt and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

When speaking about the Balkans, the first thing that comes to mind for anyone at all familiar with its history and politics are bitter disputes between small nation states, inflamed relations between ethnic groups and the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia. The area has been called anything from “the Orient of Europe” to “the powderkeg of Europe”. In the popular imagination the area is hopelessly fragmented–Balkanised. But the linguist has a very different understanding.

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When I was appointed in 1986 I was the youngest professor in the University. During my academic career the organisation has undergone a complete change. In the past the subject head’s competence extended to the acquisition of stationery–even typewriters required a separate dispensation. Nowadays the head of department is in charge of a multimillion euro budget and ensuring that there’s enough money to go round for tens and even hundreds of staff. Research and academic publications are counted and compiled on databases, and departments, faculties and entire universities are locked in competition with one another.

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Jouko Lindstedt uses Esperanto on a daily basis at home and, after Finnish, reckons it is the language he is most fluent in, even if his research is on Bulgarian and Macedonian. He says that a number of linguists have reservations about Esperanto: the very idea of a consciously invented language feels odd for researchers of “natural” languages, or at any rate not terribly interesting. Lindstedt sees Esperanto as a part of his linguistic habitus, in three respects.

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