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Juha Janhunen

Juha Antero Janhunen
Born February 12, 1952, Pori

Master of Arts 1976, PhD 1986 (Finno-Ugrian studies), University of Helsinki

Docent in North Asian Studies 1986–94, University of Helsinki
Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures 1994–, University of Helsinki
Honorary professor at the Inner Mongolia University 1998–
Docent in ethnohistory 2011–, Åbo Akademi University

Research themes:
Comparative linguistics, ethnohistory, field linguistics, endangered languages and their revival

Research projects and working groups:
HALS (Helsinki Area and Language Studies)
Manuscripta Castreaniana (M. A. Castrén’s manuscripts)
Corpus Scriptorum Chitanorum (Khitan language and writing)
UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger
ElCat (Endangered Languages Catalogue)
Revitalisation of the Nivkh language on the Amur and on Sakhalin

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Professor E.J. Nyström prize (Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters)
Tuhat Award for high-level publications and exemplary use of the system (University of Helsinki) 2015

Membership of scholarly societies:
Royal Asiatic Society 1986
Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters 2003
Academia Europaea 2008
Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) 2013
International Eurasian Academy of Sciences 2015

Photo: Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Written by Juha Janhunen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

What language to publish in?

The choice of which language to publish in is always challenging. Although I have been forced by circumstance to publish rather much in English, I feel that many political and cultural problems are linked to the use of English as a language of science, and it increases inequality within the international academic community. This is also evident in the fact that all the so-called top universities operate in Anglo-Saxon countries – as if science were at a higher level there. Moreover, today academic journals maintained by international publishers are almost exclusively in English, which dramatically narrows their scientific outlook.

In the humanities, in particular, it is necessary to master and publish in many other languages than English. I personally support the reintroduction of Latin as Europe’s language of culture and learning, but for practical reasons, Latin could be replaced by Interlingua, an international modern romance language based on Latin. I am currently writing my first academic article in Interlingua. In order to reach different audiences, I have nevertheless also published in German, French, Russian, Hungarian and Japanese, and naturally in Finland’s domestic languages – and one non-specialist article in Sami too.

It is important to develop academic assessment methods that can take account of a researcher’s activities in different languages. The assessment should always be based on the quality of the work not the language in which it was written. In many ways, those in the humanities have fallen between the cracks, when the performance indicators for publication activity were created they were quite evidently not created by those in the humanities. The University of Helsinki has nevertheless avoided the worst pitfalls. For example, it accepts in the TUHAT system, and thus in its ‘results,’ publications other than those written in English that have been through international peer review. Although the TUHAT system has its faults, it also serves those working in the humanities relatively well.

Leningrad 1971. Trip organised by the Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies, University of Helsinki, to the Leningrad Herzen Institute of the Peoples of the North. Juha Janhunen is fifth from the left at the back.


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