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Pirkko Nuolijärvi

Pirkko Sinikka Nuolijärvi
Born July 19, 1949, Artjärvi.

Master of Arts, 1972, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1985 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1986 (Finnish Language), University of Helsinki

Director, Institute for the Languages of Finland, Professor, 1998-
Associate Professor of Finnish and Communications, 1989−98, Helsinki School of Economics
Acting professor of Finnish Language, 1993−94, University of Helsinki
Acting associate professor of Finnish Language 1987−1988, University of Helsinki
Docent, Finnish Language, 1987−, University of Helsinki
Acting University Lecturer 1986−87, University of Uppsala, Department of Fenno-Ugrian Languages
Project researcher, 1982−85, Muuttajien kieli –project, Academy of Finland
Researcher, 1976−81, 1986, Institute for the Languages of Finland
Senior Archive Assistant, 1973−76, Sanakirjasäätiö (’Lexicographical foundation’)
Research Assistant, 1971−72, Käänteissanakirja (‘Reverse dictionary’), academy of Finland

Awards and honours:
Honorary Doctor, Faculty of Arts, University of Vaasa, 2006
Svenska Folkskolans Vänner, Brobyggarpriset (‘Bridgebuilder prize’), 2012
Finnish Cultural Fund Award, 2000
Doctoral Thesis Prize, August Ahlqvist, Kai Donner, Artturi Kannisto ja Yrjö Wichmann fund, 1987
Award, E. A. Saarimaa fund, 1977
Badge of Merit, Estonian Ministry for Education and Science Ministry, 2009
Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland (1st class), 2005
Badge of Merit, Svenska Finlands folkting- Swedish Assembly of Finland, 2003

Photo: Otso Kaijaluoto
Written by Pirkko Nuolijärvi (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

My best memories from the University

I have many good memories from the University. Many of my fellow students became close friends, and we spent countless pleasant moments not only in classrooms but also in cafés. We got to know the corridor of the Finnish department and the lecture halls in Porthania and the Main Building, and these places started to feel like our own even in our first year at the University.

There were many unforgettable personalities among our teachers, but two of them I would like to mention here: Eeva Niinivaara, the legendary lecturer of Estonian, and Lauri Posti, the Academician. I had taken a basic course in Estonian at the Lahti Summer University before beginning my studies and told Eeva Niinivaara about this. In the following lecture, she politely asked me if I wanted to go to the cinema with her. Of course I did, and so I found myself sitting with her in the circle of Capitol theatre watching a film based on Eduard Vilde’s novel Mäeküla piimamees. Unfortunately, no Estonian could be heard, since the film was dubbed in Russian. In any case, this marked the beginning of Eeva Niinivaara’s influence on my life, a life in which the Estonian language and literature have been a constant presence since that day. As I also studied Finnic languages, the role of Estonian in my life only got stronger. I am also one of the few lucky ones in my generation who had the privilege of being taught by Lauri Posti. When I went to the oral examination for Vepsian, he started by saying ‘Now we should converse a little bit about Vepsian.’ And so we ‘conversed’ and although I was a confident young student, it was quite clear that we were not equally expert when it came to Vepsian!

Another memory relates to my own teaching. In the late 1980s, I stood in for Associate Professor Auli Hakulinen – another charismatic teacher – and was tasked with giving a course on sociolinguistics, among other things. The lecture hall was quite small and there were so many people that some had to sit on windowsills. I vividly recall one student, who is now a recognised musician, coming in, only to notice that there were no seats left. The student just said ‘oh no’ and headed off. The group was big and very active, and we did form some kind of mutual understanding of the way in which language and society interact. Afterwards, I have been able to enjoy the privilege of supervising doctoral dissertations by some of these bright students, as well as the privilege of their friendship.

On the morning of the doctoral defence on 19 April 1986 (Picture: Matti Nuolijärvi)​
On the morning of the doctoral defence on 19 April 1986 (Picture: Matti Nuolijärvi)​

I’m sure anyone who has ever written a doctoral dissertation will find the day of their defence one of the most memorable days at the University. It was 19th April in 1986 and lecture hall III in the Porthania building was completely packed. Accordingly, the mood could not have been better as my opponent, professor Heikki Paunonen and I discussed the variation and change of the Finnish language. In my lectio, I discussed the marketplace for language and the fact that not everyone speaks a variety of language that has the same value in this market, especially not those who have moved from their home region to a new environment. After the defence, it was very touching to see that many people in the audience had tears in their eyes, and I realised that through all my tables and dialect indices, my listeners had been able to see the person who is trying to be accepted and who may even face scorn for speaking differently. That moment strengthened my belief that the purpose of research is liberating, at best it should raise a desire to change behaviour. It seems that in today’s world this purpose is now more urgent than ever.

Nuolijärvi in the karonkka of her doctoral defence, as the proud owner of a bicycle and a book of poetry, given by colleagues from KOTUS and the Department of Finnish.​
Nuolijärvi in the karonkka of her doctoral defence, as the proud owner of a bicycle and a book of poetry, given by colleagues from KOTUS and the Department of Finnish.​


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