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Jan Lindström

Jan Krister Lindström
Born April 4, 1964, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1990 (Scandinavian languages), Licentiate 1993 and PhD 1999, University of Helsinki

Teaching assistant, Scandinavian languages, 2002-04, acting professor 2005, 2007-08, professor 2008–, University of Helsinki
Vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts 2010-13, University of Helsinki
Director of the Faculty for Scandinavian Languages and Literature 2006-09, University of Helsinki
Research doctor 2002-05, the Samtalsspråkets grammatik – Grammar in Conversation project, University of Helsinki (Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences)
Linguistics working group member 1998, Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Research themes:
Interactional linguistics, language contact and Fenno-Swedish, construction grammar, language policy

Oskar Öflund Foundation award 2012
Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland prize for academic monographs 2009
Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland prize for doctoral dissertations 2000

Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
Written by Jan Lindström (Tomas Sjöblom ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Interactional Linguistics

The term of interactional linguistics arose at the turn of the 21st century, when researchers began combining language analyses and social constructs in spoken language. What is meant by the concept is the kind of practically oriented, conversation analysis based language research that became popular with linguists in the 1980s. At the time it was still regarded a branch of pragmatics. Interactional linguistics has become my primary research interest.

As the name reveals, interactional linguistics is part of linguistics—the kind of linguistics that is in constant dialogue with other fields of research studying social interaction. Research questions in interactional linguistics relate to the linguistic structures and order of social actions produced by speakers taking turns in interaction: linguistic units, which form the actions, their prosodic qualities, and their recognisability to the speakers. In interactional linguistics, the methods used to analyse spoken language come from conversation analysis and sequence analysis.

We examine what, in the preceding interaction, may have led to a certain social action and what action will in turn result from that reaction. Likewise it is understood that actions are expressed in turns, in other words that speakers do not talk simultaneously and that there is a social system in place that determines whose turn it is. The starting point for analysis is a recording of a real conversation (and not of a staged scene), which is then transcribed as faithfully as possible, containing the hesitations, stammers and pauses in speech. Transcription is a way of registering what happens in interaction, and no observable details should be omitted, because those details were also present for the participants of the conversation whose actions are being analysed.

Analysis in turn cannot add anything that was not detected in the interaction itself. For example any preconceptions about the intentions or background of the speakers must be avoided. The research material itself, the documented interaction, is however analysed from the perspective of the participants. The starting point is therefore how the participants react to what is being conveyed in the interaction.

Interactional linguistics is a central field of research for the Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity in Interaction, which is funded by the Academy of Finland and the University of Helsinki for the years 2013–17. The centre is shared by the University’s Fennists, Nordists and Sociologists.

I suppose I am to a certain degree a man of order. That is why I am also interested in grammar, even when I am analysing spoken language. This same interest has driven me to develop construction grammar in a direction that more and more considers the interactional framework that is typical of specific grammatical structures produced in conversation. Thus, construction grammar could very well develop into a useful tool for interactional linguists.

Jan Lindström giving a presentation on artefacts in interaction. Pragmatics conference IPRA in Antwerp, July 2015. Photo by Jenny Nilsson.


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