Terttu Nevalainen

PhD, Professor of English Philology, University of Helsinki
Director of the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), National Centre of Excellence, 2006-2011
Academy Professor, 2010–2014
Room C621, Unioninkatu 40
Phone +358-(0)50-4482256, 24742
E-mail: terttu.nevalainen(at)helsinki.fi

Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Research Interests

English language, history of English, historical sociolinguistics, variation studies, corpus compilation and methodology.

I have a long-standing interest in language change, which I find is one of the most fascinating issues in linguistic research. I am intrigued by the circumstances in which English became the kind of language it is today – in many respects quite unlike modern German, for example, although these languages are closely related historically.

Most of my work is basic research and has methodological, empirical and theoretical objectives. But I also contribute to textbooks and reference works by writing general introductions to my field of research and research findings. A few years ago I was invited to write a textbook on Early Modern English, a historical variety of English that I have always had a particular affinity with, not least because it was the language of Shakespeare.

Methodologically, my work comes under the umbrella of corpus linguistics. The electronic corpora of personal correspondence compiled and annotated by the CEEC team that I have been working with for well over a decade enable advanced research on English historical sociolinguistics over four centuries from 1400 to 1800. We have now joined efforts with colleagues in England and Germany to supplement the corpus and extend it into the beginning of the 20th century.

In order to be able to make better use of the data sources available to corpus linguistics, I collaborate with data-mining specialists and visualization experts. In the DAMMOC project, we produced tools and techniques for the study of language variation and change which apply to language corpora in general, both historical and modern.

The empirical work I carry out contributes to sociolinguistic fact-finding by providing baseline information on how the English language has changed in various social contexts over the last six hundred years. This work also contributes to sociolinguistic theory formation, and to the modelling of processes of long-term language change.

A question of general theoretical interest is the manifestation of social evaluation in a language such as English. By comparing linguistic processes of different kinds over time, we will be able to assess the extent to which they pattern socially in the language community, and be in a better position to judge what may count as sociolinguistic “facts” in English as opposed to other, typologically different languages. Here the past can help us understand the present.

I have just embarked on a new Academy-funded project, Reassessing Language Change: The Challenge of Real Time, with Tanja Säily and Turo Vartiainen. One of our aims is to make past work on language change more accessible and cumulative. For this purpose, the project will set up a new open-access resource, Language Change Database, to serve as a basis for studies ranging from comparative sociolinguistic typologies to statistical modelling and replication with other data sets.

My other academic commitments include participation in professional organizations and editorial work. I am currently the editor-in-chief of the monograph series Oxford Studies in the History of English and co-edit the new Benjamins series Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics with Marijke van der Wal. I continue as a member of the international editorial advisory boards of Anglia, English Language and Linguistics, International Journal of English Studies, Journal of Historical Pragmatics, Miscelanéa, NOWELE, and Studia Anglica Poznaniensia. I also edit the VARIENG eSeries, Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English.

For my activities and publications, see further TUHAT.

Recent Publications (selection)


Historical sociolinguistics

Nevalainen, Terttu (2014). Norms and usage in seventeenth-century English. Norms and Usage in Language History, 1600–1900. A Sociolinguistic and Comparative Perspective, ed. by Gijsbert Rutten, Rik Vosters & Wim Vandenbussche, 103–128. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2014). Variation in negative correlative conjunctions in 18th-century English. Studies in Modern English (The Thirtieth Anniversary Publication of the Modern English Association), ed. by Ken Nakagawa, 21–36, Tokyo: Eihōsha.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2013). Words of kings and counsellors: register variation and language change in early English courtly correspondence. Scribes as Agents of Language Change (Studies in Language Change 10), ed. by Esther-Miriam Wagner, Ben Outhwaite &  Bettina Beinhoff,  99-120. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2012). Variable focusing in English spelling between 1400 and 1600. Orthographies in Early Modern Europe, ed. by Susan Baddeley & Anja Voeste, 127-165. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2012). Reconstructing syntactic continuity and change in Early Modern English regional dialects: The case of who. Analysing Older English ed. by David Denison, Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero, Christopher McCully & Emma Moore, 159-184. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nevalainen, Terttu, Helena Raumolin-Brunberg & Heikki Mannila (2011). The diffusion of language change in real time: progressive and conservative individuals and the time-depth of change. Language Variation and Change 23 (1): 1-43.

Quantitative methods and data-mining

(advance access) Jefrey Lijffijt, Terttu Nevalainen, Tanja Säily, Panagiotis Papapetrou, Kai Puolamäki and Heikki Mannila (2015). Significance testing of word frequencies in corpora. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. doi:10.1093/llc/fqu064

Siirtola, Harri, Tanja Säily, Terttu Nevalainen and Kari-Jouko Räihä (2014). Text Variation Explorer: Towards interactive visualization tools for corpus linguistics. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 19(3): 417–429. doi:10.1075/ijcl.19.3.05sii

Mannila, Heikki, Terttu Nevalainen & Helena Raumolin-Brunberg (2013). Quantifying variation and estimating the effects of sample size on the frequencies of linguistic variables. Research Methods in Language Variation and Change, ed. by Manfred Krug & Julia Schlüter, 337-360. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lijffijt, Jefrey, Tanja Säily & Terttu Nevalainen (2012). CEECing the baseline: lexical stability and significant change in a historical corpus. Outposts of Historical Corpus Linguistic (Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 10), ed. by Jukka Tyrkkö et al. Helsinki: VARIENG.

Nevalainen, Terttu, Helena Raumolin-Brunberg & Heikki Mannila (2011). The diffusion of language change in real time: progressive and conservative individuals and the time-depth of change.Language Variation and Change 23 (1): 1-43.

Siirtola, Harri, Terttu Nevalainen, Tanja Säily & Kari-Jouko Räihä (2011). Visualisation of text corpora: a case Study of the PCEEC. How to Deal with Data (Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 7), ed. by Terttu Nevalainen & Susan M. Fitzmaurice. Helsinki: VARIENG.

Säily,Tanja, Terttu Nevalainen & Harri Siirtola (2011). Variation in noun and pronoun frequencies in a sociohistorical corpus of English. Literary and Linguistic Computing 26(2), 167-188.

Chapters in reference works

Nevalainen, Terttu (2014). Sociohistorical analysis. Research Methods in Sociolinguistics: A Practical Guide, ed. by Janet Holmes & Kirk Hazen, 93-106. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2012). Sociopragmatics of language change. Cognitive Pragmatics (Handbooks of Pragmatics, Vol. 4), ed. by Hans-Jörg Schmid, 559-586. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2012). New perspectives, theories and methods: Historical sociolinguistics. Historical Linguistics of English: An International Handbook (HSK 34.2), ed. by Alexander Bergs & Laurel Brinton, 1438–1457. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Nevalainen, Terttu & Helena Raumolin-Brunberg (2012). Historical sociolinguistics: Origins, motivations and paradigms. The Handbook of Historical Sociolinguistics, ed. by Juan Manuel Hernández-Campoy & Juan Camilo Conde-Silvestre, 22-40. Oxford, UK & Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2012). Commentary: Theoretical approaches. Current Methods in Historical Semantics (Topics in English Linguistics 73), ed. by Kathryn Allan & Justyna A. Robinson, 334-342. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Nevalainen, Terttu & Matti Rissanen (2012). Englanninkielisten standardikorpusten tekstilajeista: Brownin ja Helsingin korpusperheet. Genreanalyysi: tekstilajitutkimuksen käsikirja, ed. by Vesa Heikkinen, Eero Voutilainen, Petri Lauerma, Ulla Tiililä & Mikko Lounela, 320-324. Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Nevalainen, Terttu (2011). Historical sociolinguistics. The Sage Handbook of Sociolinguistics, ed. by Ruth Wodak, Barbara Johnstone & Paul Kerswill, 279-295. London: Sage Publications.

Nevalainen, Terttu & Minna Palander-Collin (2011). Grammaticalization and sociolinguistics. The Oxford Handbook of Grammaticalization, ed. by Bernd Heine & Heiko Narrog, 118-128. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Edited volumes

Nevalainen, Terttu & Elizabeth Traugott, eds. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of the History of English. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nevalainen, Terttu & Gijsbert Rutten, eds. (2012). Special issue on Comparative Historical Sociolinguistics. Neuphilologische Mitteilungen CXIII: 3.

Tyrkkö, Jukka, Matti Kilpiö, Terttu Nevalainen & Matti Rissanen, eds. (2012). Outposts of Historical Corpus Linguistics: From the Helsinki Corpus to a Proliferation of Resources (Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 10). Helsinki: VARIENG.

Nevalainen, Terttu & Susan M. Fitzmaurice, eds. (2011). How to Deal with Data: Problems and Approaches to the Investigation of the English Language over Time and Space (Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 7). Helsinki: VARIENG.


Nevalainen, Terttu (2006). An Introduction to Early Modern English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press/ New York: Oxford University Press.

Nevalainen, Terttu & Helena Raumolin-Brunberg (2003). Historical Sociolinguistics: Language Change in Tudor and Stuart England (Longman Linguistics Library). London: Pearson Education.