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Kimmo Koskenniemi

Kimmo Matti Koskenniemi
Born September 7, 1945, Jyväskylä

Master of Science 1967 (mathematics), Licentiate (general linguistics and computer science), PhD 1984 (general linguistics), University of Helsinki

Professor of computational linguistics/ language technology 1991–2012, University of Helsinki
Senior research fellow 1985–90, Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki
Senior programmer 1981–84, Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki
Mathematician, section manager and research associate 1967–80, University of Helsinki Computing Centre.

Research themes:
Automatic morphological analysis, i.e. the recognition of word forms and the application of the methods to historical linguistics as well as to dialects and to language forms which are old or which otherwise display variation.


Written by Kimmo Koskenniemi (Olli Siitonen ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My best memories at the University of Helsinki

Soon after graduating, I found work as a mathematician at what was then the Computing Centre of the University of Helsinki. There we solved all kinds of problems, though mostly statistical problems, brought to us by students writing their doctoral dissertations. We worked long days and didn’t count the hours. Our recreation was discussions around the coffee table, which expanded to encompass other kinds of problems, such as how to exit an area of wilderness of a certain shape in the shortest possible time without knowing the direction. Once we began to ponder how paper spikes on an office desk could be modified so as to allow new assignments to be added at one end of the table and old assignments to be removed at the other end. Some of us came up with a solution and patented it, but a manufacturer was never found to commercialise the invention.

After my move to the humanities, a pleasant memory is the teacher-student evenings organised by Aspekti, a local student organisation for students of general linguistics. In the 1980s even the teachers did tableaus or sketches. It was pleasant to note at these evenings and during Friday coffee breaks that students of the humanities were thoughtful people who could justify their opinions, and yet they were very different as individuals.

The defence of Kimmo Koskenniemi’s thesis. Photo: Professor Koskenniemi’s home archive.


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