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Ulla-Maija Forsberg

Ulla-Maija Forsberg (née Kulonen)
Born August 2, 1960, Helsinki.

Bachelor of Arts, 1983, Master of Arts 1984, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1986 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1989 (Finno-Ugrian Languages), University of Helsinki

Professor of Finno-Ugrian Languages, University of Helsinki, 1998-
Vice-rector, University of Helsinki, 2010–13
Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, 2007–09
Researcher / Special Investigator, Institute for the Languages of Finland (KOTUS) 1989–98
Research Assistant, Academy of Finland, 1984–89

Publications, research projects and other academic activity
Research interests: historical and comparative linguistics, etymology, terminology research, lexicography, syntax, Ob-Ugrian languages, Hungarian

Most significant publications (monographs and dictionaries)
The Passive in Ob-Ugrian (PhD thesis, 1989)
Suomen sanojen alkuperä; etymologinen sanakirja 1–3 (‘Etymology of Finnish words’ vols I-III, 1992/1995/2000, Principal Editor)
Johdatus unkarin kielen historiaan (’Introduction to the history of Hungarian’, 1993)
Johdatus saamentutkimukseen (’Introduction to Saami Research’, ed. with Juha Pentikäinen and Irja Seurujärvi-Kari, 1994)
Sanojen alkuperä ja sen selittäminen. Etymologista leksikografiaa (‘The origin of words. Etymological lexicography’, 1996)
The Saami: a Cultural Encyclopaedia (ed. with Risto Pulkkinen & Irja Seurujärvi-Kari 2005)
Itämansin kielioppi ja tekstejä (’Grammar of Eastern Mansi and texts’, 2007)
Fonesteemit ja sananmuodostus (’Phonesthemes and word formation’, 2010)
Suomi-unkari -sanakirja (‘Finnish-Hungarian dictionary’, Principal Editor with Magdolna Kovács, forthcoming 2015)

Awards and special achievements
State Award for Public Information, 2006
Knight (First Class), Order of the White Rose of Finland, 2009
Swedish Assembly of Finland Award, 2013

Photo: Ari Aalto
Written by Ulla-Maija Forsberg (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Ob-Ugric languages

Many of the languages related to Finnish are seriously endangered. Among them are the Ob-Ugric languages spoken in Siberia, Khanty (previously Ostyak) and Mansi (previously Vogul). Many of the dialects that Finnish and Hungarian scholars recorded a hundred years ago have already died.

Old data, mythical tales, heroic stories and the drama and songs at bear  ceremonies are a fascinating reflection of the central elements in the world-view of these indigenous peoples. As texts, they offer intriguing sources for research on both vocabulary and grammar.

My doctoral dissertation focused on the syntax of these languages, and time after time I have come back to the same data. I wrote a grammar of the dead eastern Mansi, and a critical edition of M.A.Castrén’s southern Khanty grammar, which I have edited, is soon to be published. Southern Khanty has also died since the time of Castrén’s fieldwork.

Fieldwork is still being done, however, and new data is being collected. Data was collected openly online in the Ob-BABEL (Better Analysis on Basis of Endangered Languages) project, which was part of the EUROCORES programme.

M. A. Castrén’s bicentenary exhibition in Arppeanum  (formerly the University museum) in December 2013. Photo: Ulla-Maija Forsberg.​
M. A. Castrén’s bicentenary exhibition in Arppeanum (formerly the University museum) in December 2013. Photo: Ulla-Maija Forsberg.​


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