The project analyses the diversity of Finnish spoken in Helsinki as well as its contacts with other languages spoken in the area. The focus is on Eastern Helsinki. The participating speakers are of different ages. Some were born in Helsinki, some have moved from other areas of Finland or from abroad, some speak Finnish as their first language, some as their second language. Linguistic variation is analysed in the light of different linguistic features and phenomena. The ways in which speakers construct and negotiate social identities in interaction and express their affiliation to social and ethnic groups are of interest to the project. In addition, language attitudes and linguistic awareness are analysed.

A dialogue between different approaches is central to the project. The project combines sociolinguistic, conversation analytical and ethnographic methods. The data consist of field notes, recorded interviews, audio and video recordings as well as questionnaires and listening tests.

The project consists of seven sub-projects: Mia Halonen (University of Jyväskylä): Immigrant children’s proficiency in Finnish(es), Hanna Lappalainen (University of Helsinki): Linguistic variation and linguistic awareness in a Bible study group, Heini Lehtonen (University of Helsinki): Linguistic resources and youth styles in multiethnic Helsinki, Liisa Raevaara (Kotus): Language practices of adolescents in Eastern Helsinki. The youth centre as a community of practice, Anu Rouhikoski (University of Helsinki): Linguistic variation in service encounters, Marja-Leena Sorjonen (University of Helsinki): ”Where can you hear speech like this.” The evaluation of speech samples as an interactive process, and Johanna Vaattovaara (University of Helsinki): Regional awareness and mental linguistic boundaries: “the East” of the eastern suburb residents.

You can find more information on the subprojects below. In addition, a number of Master’s Theses have been written within the framework of the project (see Publications).

Mia Halonen:
Language practices and attitudes among sixth-graders in Helsinki


In the study the focus is on language practices and attitudes of Finnish sixth-graders (12 year olds) in multilingual suburban schools in Helsinki. The data consist of ethnographic fieldnotes, (Finnish) language proficiency – reading, writing and listening – exercises and a language perception test gathered in years 2006 and 2009.

The practices are thus studied in school contexts. The framework is throughout sociocultural: “producing language” for a researcher is a social situation which the participants orient to and construct with their actions. The focus is on how the actions are designed and what resources are drawn on. For the analyses, mixed micro-analytic methods of conversation, discourse, framework and participation analyses are used.

Important theoretical concepts are “performance” and “presentation”; all action is looked at as not only interactional but also “actions for an audience”. All the products are born in situated processes of identification and positioning of the self. The data offer opportunity to see how the pupils see themselves as language users who can take into account and perform in relation to the assumed expectations of the researcher and their own stances. Their practices are complex hybrids of these diverse motivations.


Hanna Lappalainen:
Linguistic variation and linguistic awareness in a Bible study group


The sub-project discusses the language use and linguistic awareness of Eastern Helsinkian women who belong to the same Bible study group. The focus has been 1) in the variation of 3rd person personal pronouns (hän vs. se), and 2) in different ways to refer to oneself, especially in the variation between so called zero person forms and 1st person forms. The data have been collected during the period of ethnographic fieldwork; linguistic analysis is mainly based on tape- and video-recorded interviews and conversations at the coffee tables in the meetings of the Bible study group. Methodologically, the study is based on sociolinguistic variation analysis and conversation analysis.

The same data have been analyzed from other perspectives, and together with other recordings as well. These supplementary data have been collected in the frames of other sub-projects and a socio-onomastic project called “Transformation of onomastic landscape in the sociolinguistically diversifying neighbourhoods of Helsinki”. These studies, done together with Terhi Ainiala (and partly with Jani Vuolteenaho), concentrate on the use of different name variants of Helsinki (Helsinki, Hesa or Stadi) and how a name-based split of a suburb (new vs. old) is used as a resource for constructing local identities and categorizations.


Heini Lehtonen:
Linguistic resources and youth styles in multiethnic Helsinki


The study analyses language and interaction among adolescents in multiethnic suburbs. The analysis focuses on enregisterment: processes, where linguistic and other semiotic signs gain meaning that links them with stereotypical social persona, with their characteristics or with social relationships. It is shown different indexical meanings are employed in the interaction, how the adolescents position themselves and others with relation to the social categorisations constructed in interaction, and how linguistic resources are marked as the speakers ‘own’ voice or as ‘another’s’ voice. The data is gathered ethnographically mainly during one school year in two Helsinki junior high schools, where altogether about 20 different first languages are spoken. The data consist of a field diary, of recorded interviews with 38 adolescents, of several audio and video recordings both during the lessons and the breaks, as well as of so called retrospective interviews. Theoretically and methodologically, the study falls in the field of interactional sociolinguistics.


Liisa Raevaara:
Language practices of adolescents in Eastern Helsinki


The study examines interactional practices and linguistic resources that the adolescents use for displaying the relevance of different types of social categorizations in their interactions. It also discusses the multi-layered indexical meanings invoked through these categorizations. In addition, the study examines some resources the adolescents use for referring to themselves in interaction, focusing on the variation between the 1st person singular pronoun is mä and the slang word meitsi. The main data is collected in a youth club in Eastern Helsinki. The adolescents participating in the study are 13–18 years old, mainly boys, and have heterogeneous ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. The data consist of ethnographic field notes and audio recordings. In the study, conversation analysis is used as the main method, but also perspectives and questions of sociolinguistics are taken into account.


Anu Rouhikoski:
Linguistic variation in service encounters


The sub-project is an ongoing PhD work on language variation in service encounters. The data consist of video-taped recordings in two social insurance offices (in Finnish: Kela) in Helsinki. On one hand, the focus lies in morphological and phonological features (e.g. vowel clusters ending with A); on the other hand, in syntactic and pragmatic phenomena, such as the construction of directive utterances made by the employees (requests, advice, instructions, suggestions, etc.). The study falls under the framework of interactional sociolinguistics, but the perspectives of conversation analysis as well as pragmatics are also applied.


Johanna Vaattovaara:
Helsinki as a semiotic landscape in the linguistic ideologies of the Finns


The sub-project concentrates on the indexical values of linguistic variables associated to “Helsinki”. The project builds on the understanding of linguistic variation as a semiotic system as well as the current late modern view of places as meaningful spaces and as cultural constructions, negotiated in discourses. “Helsinki” is thus approached as a cultural and social category rather than as a location or as a dialect area. A variety of methods (both qualitative and quantitative) are applied in order to investigate the most relevant features and perceptual processes in the ideological construction of “Helsinki”.