In the Language Bank: Mikko Laitinen
Kielipankki – The Language Bank of Finland is a service for researchers using language resources. Mikko Laitinen tells us about his recent work on social media datasets, which also allow researchers to explore social networks.

Who are you?

I am Mikko Laitinen, professor of English Language and Culture at the School of Humanities at the University of Eastern Finland and one of the PI’s of the national Digital Humanities research infrastructure consortium, FIN-CLARIAH.

What is your research topic?

I am a sociolinguist, which means that I am interested in the use of language in different situations and as a social phenomenon. As a researcher, I have worked with small and structured corpora as well as with large and computationally intensive mass data, but always with some background variables through which language use has been examined. The corpora have been both synchronic snapshots and diachronic cross-sections through time.

Recently, my research team has been working a lot with various Twitter datasets. We are now building a large, representative and continuously updated benchmark corpus that follows language use in near real time on this social media platform. This kind of ”digital observatory”, which offers us means to monitor language use in society, is useful, for example, as a background for language policy discussions. What is more, if it is combined with illustrative visualisations in a more comprehensible format, it may also increase people’s interest in language research in general. Twitter is an interesting resource, because despite of its limited text length, it has extremely rich metadata that allow us to explore people’s language use in social networks, for example.

How is your research related to Kielipankki?

I think it is great that we have all these resources collected and accessible in one place and through one easy-to-use interface. This is a great service for students and researchers! I have personally used the English language resources the most, including the COHA and COCA corpora, and I have downloaded the English lingua franca corpus (ELFA) on my own computer. I also occasionally check the Suomi24 corpus for some interesting phenomena.

Publications

Laitinen, Mikko. 2020. Empirical perspectives on English as a lingua franca (ELF) grammar. World Englishes 39:3, 1–16.

Laitinen, Mikko, Masoud Fatemi & Jonas Lundberg. 2020. Size matters: Digital social networks and language change. Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence 3:46.

Laitinen, Mikko. 2018. Placing ELF among the varieties of English: Observations from typological profiling. In Sandra Deshors (ed.), Modelling World Englishes in the 21st Century: Assessing the Interplay of Emancipation and Globalization of ESL varieties, 109–131. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Laitinen, Mikko & Magnus Levin. 2016d. On the globalization of English: Observations of subjective progressives in present-day Englishes. In Elena Seoane & Cristina Suárez-Gómez (eds.), World Englishes: New Theoretical and Methodological Considerations, 229–252. (Varieties of English around the World G57). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lundberg, Jonas & Mikko Laitinen. 2020b. Twitter trolls: a linguistic profile of anti-democratic discourse. Language Sciences 79.

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.