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Terhi Ainiala

Terhi Tuulikki Ainiala
Born July 4, 1967

Master of Arts 1991 and Doctor of Philosophy 1997 (Finnish Language), University of Helsinki.

Finnish language University Lecturer 2012- , University of Helsinki

Researcher, Special Investigator, Head of Research Division, Institute for the Languages of Finland, 1991-2011; Research Assistant, Academy of Finland 1995-97 (on secondment from Institute).
Docent in Finnish Language, 2003-, University of Helsinki

Publications, research projects and other academic activities
Research interests: onomastics, specialising in socio-onomastics and urban place names; slang

Written by Terhi Ainiala and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Better off with the pack

There are names in all language systems and the functions of names in different languages are generally the same. Indeed, onomastics is a truly international research area. International conferences and symposia are organised on a regular basis. Terhi Ainiala is active within ICOS (the International Council of Onomastic Sciences) and from 2008 to 2014 was on the Council’s executive board.

Nordic collaboration in onomastics has traditionally been strong. This co-operation was strengthened with the establishment in the 1970s of NORNA (Nordiska samarbetskommittén för namnforskning). Ainiala is currently chair of this Nordic onomastics co-operative committee.

– We arrange symposia, congresses and produce academic articles based on these.

Her work with Nordic colleagues has also put Ainiala in touch with the rich diversity of the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish languages.

– In our meetings and symposia, we don’t fall back on English, we use Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. This facility with Nordic languages has been very useful, and I do use Swedish in my teaching in the Unversity. Onomastics is the common denominator for the languages taught within our department, whose studies go under the code NORSU1, (an acronym spelling ‘elephant’ in Finnish).

In her capacity as university lecturer Terhi Ainiala wants to develop teaching and promote her research area, making it more visible beyond the University and take part in shaping university and academic policy. Natural forums for these are the University’s Teachers’ Academy, taking responsibility for Finnish language alumni, working on her department’s teaching development group and on the Faculty Council. Beyond the University, Ainiala sees her work on the language evaluation panel of the Publication Forum and various academic societies as important channels for this exchange of ideas:

– At the beginning of the year I took up the position of vice-chair of the Finnish Union of University Teachers and Researchers, and I am on the board of the Helsinki University branch. I am also involved in Green party politics: I am chair of the North Helsinki Greens. Co-operation in its various forms gives me strength and energy.

Photo: Maimu Berezkina.​​


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