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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

Revealing the diversity of written language

As a scholar I feel I am more focused on the use of language than language itself. I specialise in textual research and written official texts, which I have studied inter alia from the perspective of dialogue. I have never understood the study of interactive communication as purely referring to oral communication. Dialogue is not far from intertextuality, which is a recurrent theme in my research, and intertextuality is related to the study of paraphrasing and rhetoric and the examination of power relations: what is taken from one text to be used in another and what it is used for. My research began in the field of so-called critical discourse analysis, which is based on a constructivist view of language. In 2006, I launched a research project called Tekstualisoiva julkishallinto (‘Textualising public administration’), which has mostly progressed with the help of students. As a result of the project, linguistic constructivism has begun to be set in an ever stronger framework of genre research. The students involved in the project – with Kati Karvinen and Jenni Viinikka on the frontline – have studied customer and patient reports as a genre, abandoning the tight interpretations of the critical research tradition.

The project has created new views on both linguistic devices and the diversity of written language – maybe even the beginning of a new paradigm. Unlike spoken language, written language has often been considered homogeneous. Any variations in written language have been seen as imperfections or purely as manifestations of power, rather than qualities of language or genre.

Genre research and the study of official language alike lead the researcher to take a diverse approach: multimethodology in the case of textual research and interdisciplinarity when studying official language. My work is as much in the social sciences as in linguistics, and I am also a thesis supervisor in the field of legal studies.

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