Ulla-Maija Forsberg
Humanist of the day

Ulla-Maija Forsberg

Ulla-Maija Forsberg is charmed by words, their use and their origins. In terms of research, she gets most excited by the topic of threatened languages and the already dead Finno-Ugrian languages and dialects, as well as the very latest and dynamic language developments. The latter is represented by Helsinki slang, or ‘stadin slangi’, Forsberg’s mother, or more accurately, father tongue. It’s a form of the language that she has just been challenged to grapple with in the shape of an etymological dictionary (forthcoming!).

Ulla-Maija Forsberg

Ulla-Maija Forsberg (née Kulonen)
Born August 2, 1960, Helsinki.

Bachelor of Arts, 1983, Master of Arts 1984, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1986 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1989 (Finno-Ugrian Languages), University of Helsinki

Professor of Finno-Ugrian Languages, University of Helsinki, 1998-
Vice-rector, University of Helsinki, 2010–13
Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, 2007–09
Researcher / Special Investigator, Institute for the Languages of Finland (KOTUS) 1989–98
Research Assistant, Academy of Finland, 1984–89

Publications, research projects and other academic activity
Research interests: historical and comparative linguistics, etymology, terminology research, lexicography, syntax, Ob-Ugrian languages, Hungarian

Most significant publications (monographs and dictionaries)
The Passive in Ob-Ugrian (PhD thesis, 1989)
Suomen sanojen alkuperä; etymologinen sanakirja 1–3 (‘Etymology of Finnish words’ vols I-III, 1992/1995/2000, Principal Editor)
Johdatus unkarin kielen historiaan (’Introduction to the history of Hungarian’, 1993)
Johdatus saamentutkimukseen (’Introduction to Saami Research’, ed. with Juha Pentikäinen and Irja Seurujärvi-Kari, 1994)
Sanojen alkuperä ja sen selittäminen. Etymologista leksikografiaa (‘The origin of words. Etymological lexicography’, 1996)
The Saami: a Cultural Encyclopaedia (ed. with Risto Pulkkinen & Irja Seurujärvi-Kari 2005)
Itämansin kielioppi ja tekstejä (’Grammar of Eastern Mansi and texts’, 2007)
Fonesteemit ja sananmuodostus (’Phonesthemes and word formation’, 2010)
Suomi-unkari -sanakirja (‘Finnish-Hungarian dictionary’, Principal Editor with Magdolna Kovács, forthcoming 2015)

Awards and special achievements
State Award for Public Information, 2006
Knight (First Class), Order of the White Rose of Finland, 2009
Swedish Assembly of Finland Award, 2013

Photo: Ari Aalto
Written by Ulla-Maija Forsberg (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

I had barely been working at the University for ten years when I found myself in the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts in the main building. Those were years when we were bracing ourselves for a large-scale reform of the University, and the hurry was proportionate to that.

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Many of the languages related to Finnish are seriously endangered. Among them are the Ob-Ugric languages spoken in Siberia, Khanty (previously Ostyak) and Mansi (previously Vogul). Many of the dialects that Finnish and Hungarian scholars recorded a hundred years ago have already died.

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