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Jyrki Kalliokoski

Jyrki Tapio Kalliokoski
Born November 16, 1956, Helsinki

Master of Arts, 1982 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1989 (Finnish Language), University of Helsinki

Professor of Finnish Language, University of Helsinki, 1999
Research Fellow, Academy of Finland, 2000–1
Acting Professor, Finnish Language, University of Helsinki, 1997–99
Associate Professor (fixed term), Finnish as a Second Language, University of Helsinki, 1995–97
Acting Associate Professor, Finnish Language, University of Helsinki, 1992, 1994
Visiting Lecturer, Finnish Language and Literature, University of Groningen, 1990-91
Senior Assistant, University of Helsinki, 1990–95
Assistant, University of Helsinki, 1984–90
Lecturer in Finnish Language and Literature, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, 1983–84

Publications, Research Projects and other Academic Activity

Research interests: Finnish as a Second Language, text analysis and literary language

Gold Medal, Finnish Literature Society, 2011
Honorary Member, Suomi toisena kielenä opettajat ry (‘association of teachers of Finnish as a second language’), 2012
Academic community’s Gold Medal for 30 years’ service to advancement of knowledge (Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and Finnish Universities), 2015

Photo: Sasa Tkalcan
Written by Jyrki Kalliokoski, Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Does literature have a language of its own?

I wanted to write my MA thesis on the language of literature, preferably on a writer whose language was considered difficult. I chose the Finnish modernist Volter Kilpi, who by the turn of the 1970s had received very little scholarly attention. (Since then researchers have more than made up for this!) It was Kilpi’s way with words that drew me to linguistics, and he has never really lost his hold on me.

The more you explore the borderline between linguistics and literary studies, the easier it is to notice that literature really doesn’t have a language of its own. Different authors, genres and traditions of literature use language in the same ways as the non-literary ones that are all around us; if it were otherwise, we simply wouldn’t be able to read fiction at all.

To interpret literature, we need to know the literary tradition, but the same applies to all other uses of language. Words and sentences achieve their meaning in context. Once they have been spoken or written, nothing is as it was before: both the interpretation and context of words change as we use language.

Major authors make their readers see our common language and its expressive potential from new and even surprising perspectives. This is the challenge for researchers of literary language use.

  • The University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland are digitizing classics of Finnish literature. The Klassikkokirjasto web portal (‘The library of classic works’, in Finnish) provides open access to Finnish literature for reading and research. Also works by Volter Kilpi (in Finnish) are freely available through the portal.
Finnish Language alumni evening in the University’s Kaisa Library, 2013. Photo: Sasa Tkalcan.​​​
Finnish Language alumni evening in the University’s Kaisa Library, 2013. Photo: Sasa Tkalcan.​​​


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