In the Language Bank: Liisa Mustanoja

Kielipankki – The Language Bank of Finland is a service for researchers using language resources. Liisa Mustanoja tells us about her research on sociolinguistics. With the help of a longitudinal corpus, it is possible to observe changes in the spoken language of the same people at different points in time.

Who are you?

I am Liisa Mustanoja, PhD, from Tampere. I work as a University Lecturer of Finnish Language in the Unit of Languages at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication, University of Tampere. From January 2024, I will be the Head of the Unit of Languages for the next five years. I am also an Associate Professor of Finnish at the University of Oulu, specialising in sociolinguistics.

What is your research topic?

So far, all my research fits under the large umbrella of sociolinguistics. I am interested in the relationship between language and society, especially in all forms of change, upheaval and movement. In my doctoral research, I examined the change of the spoken language of Tampere at the level of the idiolect. This was a so-called real-time panel survey, in which I examined the language of the same people in the light of two points in time. Later, together with my colleagues, I have extended the study to the spoken language of Helsinki, and we have also included a third time point. The focus has largely been on the phonetic and formal structure of the language, but the data has also allowed for a sociophonetic approach. In one article, for example, we investigated changes in pitch over time.

In addition to the path of variation studies, I am interested in the interface between spoken and written language, and this has provided me with another research direction, namely the study of letter writing. I have investigated – both on my own as well as together with Finnish language students – the correspondence during the Second World War. As there was no other means of communication during the war, everyone took up their pen, regardless of age, profession or educational background. Although this correspondence resource is old, it has provided essential insights into the importance of human contact in times of crisis, as well as into everyday life and humanity in the midst of world turmoil.

How is your research related to Kielipankki?

For some time now, Kielipankki has made accessible the Longitudinal Corpus of Finnish Spoken in Helsinki, which has provided me and my colleagues with an important source of data for studying language change. This corpus will hopefully be joined in the coming months by a little sister, the Longitudinal data of Tampere spoken language. Previously, recordings of the spoken language of Tampere had been made in the 1970s and 1990s. In 2019, I started a third round of data collection in Tampere, which has been continued by students up to the present day. Thanks to the funding I received from FIN-CLARIN, I have also been able to hire some temporary help to work on the material. Everything is now in place, except for the final paperwork. The transfer and archiving of personal speech data has its own complications, but Kielipankki is by far the best possible repository for this valuable longitudinal data. On the eve of handing over the material, it feels like there should be more material and it should be more complete, and the transcripts should be revised countless more times. But really, every little addition to Kielipankki is a great gift to the research community. And by opening up even a part of the resource, someone else has also the possibility to join the transcription work if they want to!

From the resources in Kielipankki, I would also like to mention the Suomi24 Corpus, which suits well for student work. Nowadays, when data protection matters are demanding, it is a relief to be able to direct students to these ready-made resources. For me, too, there is still a lot of new things to wonder about in Kielipankki. My interest in wartime letters, for example, has recently led me to Kalle Päätalo’s Iijoki series, and I have been quite surprised by the research potential of this cornucopia.


Mustanoja Liisa, O’Dell Michael & Lappalainen Hanna, 2022: Helsinkiläis- ja tamperelaispuhujien äänenkorkeuden muutokset 1970-luvulta 2010-luvulle. Puhe ja kieli.

Kuparinen Olli, Santaharju Jenni, Leino Unni, Mustanoja Liisa & Peltonen Jaakko 2022: Katomuotojen eteneminen hd-yhtymässä Helsingin puhekielessä. Virittäjä 126, s. 316–338.

Kuparinen Olli, Peltonen Jaakko, Mustanoja Liisa, Leino Unni & Santaharju Jenni, 2021: Lects in Helsinki Finnish – a probabilistic component modeling approach. Language Variation and Change.

Lappalainen Hanna, Mustanoja Liisa & O’Dell Michael, 2019: Miten ja milloin yksilön kieli muuttuu? Helsinkiläisidiolektien muutos ja muutoksen tutkimuksen menetelmät. Virittäjä 123, s. 550–581.

Kuparinen Olli, Mustanoja Liisa, Peltonen Jaakko, Santaharju Jenni & Leino Unni, 2019: Muutosmallit kolmen aikapisteen pitkittäisaineiston valossa. Sananjalka 61. s. 30–56.

Mustanoja Liisa, 2018: Sydämellisiä kirjeitä talvisodasta. Hämäläisten sotilaiden kiitoskirjeet aikansa kielen ja kirjeenvaihtokulttuurin heijastajina. Sisko Brunni, Niina Kunnas, Santeri Palviainen ja Jari Sivonen (toim.), Kuinka mahottomasti nää tekkiit. Juhlakirja Harri Mantilan 60-vuotispäivän kunniaksi. Studia humaniora ouluensia 16. Oulu, s. 251–285. h

Mustanoja Liisa (toim.), 2017: Arjen sirpaleita ja suuria tunteita: Kirjeet sodan sanoittajina ja ihmissuhteiden ylläpitäjinä 1939–1944. Tampere Studies in Language, Translation and Literature B5. Tampereen yliopisto.

Mustanoja Liisa, 2011: Idiolekti ja sen muuttuminen: reaaliaikatutkimus Tampereen puhekielestä. Tampere: Tampere University Press.


More information

The FIN-CLARIN consortium consists of a group of Finnish universities along with CSC – IT Center for Science and the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus). FIN-CLARIN helps the researchers in Finland to use, to refine, to preserve and to share their language resources. The Language Bank of Finland is the collection of services that provides the language materials and tools for the research community.