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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

My best memories from the University of Helsinki

I got interested in onomastics during Eero Kiviniemi’s lectures for the Finnish department. In the spring term of my second year as a Finnish language undergraduate I got to go on a fieldtrip collecting place names in Vehmaa, south-west Finland. After that I was an onomastician! Place names were no longer just words on a map but part of the local people’s language, their way of telling about their surroundings and their feelings about the place. As I interviewed the villagers I soon realized not everyone talked about the place in the same terms–some names were spelt in more than one way and the same place could be referred to by different names. This got me hooked on researching the function and variation of names.

Photo: Marika Luhtala.​

As a teacher and supervisor I enjoy precious moments every week. Completed seminar work, bachelor’s essays and master’s theses are always a cause for celebration. It’s both fun and rewarding to get things done, sometimes working in a team across disciplinary boundaries. With some archaeologist colleagues and some of our students, we have just traced the maritime history of Helsinki with the help of onomastics. On a field trip in summer 2014 to the island of Vallisaari we got to know the island’s topography and history, and reflect on what it might have looked like a hundred years ago.

Photo: Marika Luhtala.​


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