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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

The commercial dimension

At the beginning of the 1980s, we collaborated with commercial enterprises in connection with university research projects. This provided us with significant additional funding for research. At that time the University’s central administration did not consider it possible for the University to engage in any commercial activity. Consequently, Fred Karlsson and I founded a separate company called Lingsoft. Through the company we were able to employ students to develop products to commercial requirements, such as hyphenation algorithms and spell-checkers for Finnish and soon for several other languages as well.

The company has offered work to linguists and language technologists to the tune of many hundreds of man-years. The seminal years of commercial language technology in Finland are described, among others, by Antti Arppe in his article “Ei yhtä ainoaa polkua – Suomalaisia kokemuksia matkalla kieliteknologisesta tutkimuksesta liiketoimintaan” (‘No one single path – Finnish experiences on the journey from language technology research to commercial activity’). Tarja Knuuttila, for her part, describes in her book Tieteestä tuotteeksi (‘From Science to products’) the conflicts that could and did arise when several researchers had their own commercially exploitable research results. Lingsoft is still in operation, although we founding members decided to remain primarily researchers, and our role in the company is solely that of minority shareholders. On the basis of my experience, I am convinced that academic research should be open and that the computer programs it produces should be developed according to open source principles.

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