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Ulla Tiililä

Ulla Marika Elisabeth Tiililä
Born July 7, 1963, Helsinki

BA 1993 and PhD 2007 (Finnish Language), University of Helsinki

Docent at the University of Helsinki 2014
Consulting officer and researcher at the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus), 2005–
Part-time work as an hourly teacher, research assistant, (senior) researcher and instructor at Kotus
Member of the Selkokeskus (‘simplified language centre’) advisory committee
Member of the editorial board of Virittäjä academic journal
Member of the Langnet supervisor pool
Member of the preparatory group for Open Government Partnership Initiative at the Ministry of Finance, 2013–14
Member of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s official languages working group, 2013
Member of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s insurance physician organisation development group, 2013

Research themes combine genre and official language research
Principal investigator of various Kotus projects (Tekstualisoituva julkishallinto, Perustelut päätöksissä, Ideaalikieli ja kirjoittamisen käytännöt)

Awards and special achievements
Afinlandia Prize for an outstanding Doctor’s thesis in applied linguistics, 2004–07
August Ahlqvist, Yrjö Wichmann, Kai Donner and Artturi Kannisto Foundations’ Dissertation Award, 2008
Society for the Study of Finnish’s E. A. Saarimaa Foundation Board’s Stipend for articles about the standardisation of language, 1994

Written by Ulla Tiililä (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Joe McVeigh

Administrative Language Work on Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes

When the topic of administrative language comes up in public, Ulla Tiililä, a consulting officer at the Institute for the Languages of Finland, says the tone is often combative and reproachful.

“This kind of attitude bears no fruit and is unhelpful for solving problems, if there are any. Being antagonistic also makes it impossible to cooperate with officials.”

Tiililä has been a leading figure in researching and developing the use of languages in official communication for over 20 years. The Institute for the Languages of Finland employs a handful of experts on administrative language. The results of their work are sometimes published in the media, or else they are released on their website. Often their work is semi-public, as they give speeches for courses and seminars. However, the majority of their work is done behind the scenes and most often face-to-face: conversing and consulting or attempting to influence political decision making.

“Work on administrative language cannot be done alone or by simply dictating from above.”

Together with such organisations as the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and the Ministry of Finance, experts working at the Institute began an administrative language campaign in October 2014. The year-long campaign aims to bring attention to the Report of the Working Group for Clear Administrative Language. The impetus for the Report came from an entry in the 2011 government policy program regarding the development of the language of legislation and official communication.

“The article was included in the government policy programme largely as a result of the Institute’s lobbying efforts, although the idea of developing administrative language originated with experts who specialise in everyday language,” Tiililä says. “Our work tends to be anonymous teamwork, as is often the case in the work of civil servants. Successful teamwork is nevertheless extremely rewarding. Of course it is also fun to see your own handiwork on paper, for instance in a government policy programme.”

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