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Jan-Ola Östman

Jan-Ola Ingemar Östman
Born October 14, 1951, Solf

Doctor of Philosophy 1986 (linguistics), University of California, Berkeley
MA (FM) 1977 and MPhil (FL) 1981 (English language and literature), Åbo Akademi University
Master of Arts 1976 (linguistic science), Reading University

Associate professor 1989–1998 and full professor of English philology 1998-2002, acting professor of general linguistics 1993–1996, professor of Scandinavian languages 2002-, University of Helsinki
Professor II (part-time) of Scandinavian languages 2006–2010, University of Tromsø, Norway

Director of the doctoral program for language studies at the University of Helsinki 2013-

Research interests
Pragmatics, discourse and media; construction grammar and construction discourse; minorities, dialects, language contact, identity and variability; language policy, sociology of language, ideology and applied linguistics

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Photo: Leila Mattfolk
Written by Jan-Ola Östman (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)

Understanding requires many perspectives simultaneously

My quest to get a handle on the big picture has meant that I have constantly tried to approach language from new perspectives. For instance, every language is as such a new perspective; I have thus worked not only on English, on Scandinavian languages, on Finnish, but also – and in particular – on Hualapai (Hwalbáy; Yuman) and on Finland-Swedish Sign Language (FinSSL). Every dialect provides an additional perspective.

Every university also gives its very specific perspective on life. I have studied at the Åbo Akademi University, at Reading University in Great Britain, at the University of California in Berkeley; and I’ve been a visiting scholar and/or taught for longer periods (over 3 mo.) at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts in Brussels, at the University of Tromsø, and at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

I came to the University of Helsinki in 1989, where I was professor of English linguistics for 13 years. Here I learned everything about globalization. But I wanted to go further into the details: I was professor of general linguistics for three years, and in 2002 I received the historically important “dialect professorship” in Scandinavian languages. During the last 15 years I have in particular worked closely with other Nordic scholars in several projects in order to accumulate new perspectives and a deeper understanding of the late-modern communities in Norden (i.e., the Nordic countries) and of what a language perspective on these communities can offer international research: the project Modern imports in the languages in Norden on globalization and language contact, the ScanDiaSyn project on Nordic dialect syntax, the SLICE project on the status of standard languages, and the network on Parallel language use on language policies in higher education.

The Coat of Arms of Solf, Jan-Ola Östman’s home town, which was divided between, and incorporated into Vaasa and Korsholm in 1973.


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