Matti Miestamo
Humanist of the day

Matti Miestamo

A researcher who specialises in large-scale comparison of languages, studying literally hundreds of languages at a time. Professor Miestamo's research topics include the expression of negation and questions in the world's languages, and issues of language complexity. He is also interested in the documentation of less-studied languages, such as Skolt Saami.

Matti Miestamo

Matti Markko Petteri Miestamo
Born 3 January 1972, Lahti

Licence (=BA), 1995, Sciences du Langage, Université de Provence (Aix-en-Provence) BA, 1996, General Linguistics, University of Turku
MA, 1997, General Linguistics, University of Turku
PhD, 2003, General Linguistics, University of Helsinki
(Docent, 2008, General Linguistics, University of Helsinki)

Professor, University of Helsinki, General Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages, 2014-
Researcher, University of Helsinki, Department of General Linguistics, 2003–06
Visiting scholar, University of Antwerp, 2005–06
Researcher, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, 2006–11

Professor, Stockholm University, General Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, 2011–13

Publications, research projects and other scientific activities TUHAT
Research areas: Linguistic typology, negation, interrogatives, language complexity, language documentation, Skolt Saami language

Awards and special achievements
Joseph Greenberg Award, Association for Linguistic Typology, 2005
Burgen Scholar, Academia Europaea, 2004

Photo: LInda Tammisto
Authors: Matti Miestamo and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by: John Calton

There are reckoned to be up to 7,000 languages spoken around the world. And yet linguistic theories and our understanding of human language are largely based on what we know about European languages. Linguistic typology approaches human language from a genuinely global, comparative perspective. Several hundreds of languages at a time can be compared in typological studies when trying to work out what languages have in common, and how they differ one from the other. This perspective allows for a very different outlook on language than that offered through the examination of the most familiar, dominant languages.

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I have plenty of happy memories from my years at the University of Helsinki. I came to the university as a postgrad, and integration into the Department of General Linguistics proved to be easy and straightforward. There was a good atmosphere: we got together for Friday coffee and plenty of parties. But we certainly got through plenty of work, too.

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Professor Matti Miestamo takes an active role in the administrative and expert duties within his field of research. He is currently editor of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics (Cambridge University Press), and at an earlier stage in his career was editor of the SKY Journal of Linguistics. He has edited several collections of articles.

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