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Liisa Tiittula

Liisa Maria Tiittula
Born October 28, 1950, Tampere

PhD 1990 (Linguistics) Academy of Sciences, Berlin
Master of Arts 1984, Licentiate 1985 (General Linguistics), University of Helsinki
Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration) 1975, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration

Professor of German Language 2010–, University of Helsinki
Professor of German Language (teaching area: the theory and practice of translation) 1995–2010, University of Tampere
German language assistant, lecturer and acting associate professor; assistant professor in Applied Linguistics and business communications, 1975–95, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration
Research fellow 1990–91, senior research fellow 1998–99 and 2005–06, Academy of Finland
Research fellow 2003–04, University of Tampere Centre for Advanced Studies
Visiting professor (Translation Studies) 2011–12, Karl Franzens University, Graz

Docent in Applied Linguistics 1992–, Helsinki School of Economics
Docent in German language and culture (area of expertise: intercultural communication) 1994–, University of Tampere

Research themes:
Literary translation, speech-to-text interpreting, subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, institutional interaction, multimodality, Finnish-German business communication

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 2009–

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Liisa Tiittula
Translated by Matthew Billington

Interdisciplinary Research

I first studied at the Helsinki School of Economics, and it was at that institution that I also found my first long-term post. Over time the need for an interdisciplinary approach became clear, and the use of language had to be considered in a wider social context. The first research project I was involved in, which was partly funded by the Academy of Finland, studied the cultural differences between German and Finnish business communications (1988-1991). How cultural stereotypes were handled in the interview process turned out to be more interesting than the actual differences we found. In another project funded by the Academy the subject was interaction in Finnish and German television debates (1996-99). My business school background led to the compilation, in collaboration with Outi Steuer, of a comprehensive electronic German-Finnish-German business communication dictionary based on textual corpora.

Outi Steuer and Liisa Tiittula working on a dictionary in 2006.

Interculturality and the meeting of cultures remained an interest of mine when I became professor of German translation at the University of Tampere. In a project studying social styles and institutional interaction during cross-cultural contacts (Academy of Finland, 2003–2006), we first gathered video material from an international fair, and then analysed conversations between Finns and Germans. In Tampere, too, crossing the boundaries between disciplines, particularly with social scientists, was in many ways rewarding, and beneficial to the research. The Speech Text project, funded by the Academy of Finland (2009–12), was also based on interdisciplinary collaboration. The project studied speech-to-text interpreting using methods from translation studies, linguistics, and computer sciences. The project was initiated at the request of the Finnish Federation of Hard of Hearing, who wished to assess the comprehensibility of speech-to-text interpreting. Speech-to-text interpreting is a service aimed at the deaf and the hard of hearing, where speech and other relevant audible information is transmitted into visible text in real time.

Liisa Tiittula, Eila Minkkinen, Margarethe Olbertz-Siitonen and Ewald Reuter presenting a research project at the International Conference on Conversation Analysis in Helsinki in 2006.

Subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) became part of my research at the University of Helsinki. New research questions have led to collaboration with the researchers on speech recognition and visual content analysis at Aalto University, and they continuously test the limits of my own knowledge and understanding. If you want to offer answers to research questions that arise from society at large, interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary, as is working together with professionals from various fields. Within my own field, these include translators, interpreters, and related organisations.

In my research projects, I have looked at communication as a multimodal whole where language is intertwined with other means of communication in human interaction. It is also interesting how the same thing can be expressed through different means when one avenue of communication is closed off, for example by verbalising visual information, as is done in audio description.

The interdisciplinary research project “Audio Description and Automatic Multimodal Content Analysis” presenting at the VL’15 Conference in Lisbon.


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