The University of Helsinki scores highly in international comparisons of research and teaching in the humanities: it is among the leading Nordic and European universities and close to the top 50 in the world. The University's high-quality multidisciplinary research in the humanities encompasses a wide spectrum of topics, from the past to the present and including languages and cultures. These topics are explored for the benefit of both the scientific community and the public. The research focuses particularly on cultural and linguistic diversity, interaction, language technology and corpora.
An interpreter of languages and cultures
The world is becoming more and more global, and encounters between different people, languages and cultures are part of everyday life. These encounters emphasise verbal and cultural interaction and the need to understand difference.
Empires shape human societies, with legacies that last longer than the regimes themselves. The Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires investigates how, within the context of the Near East in the first millennium BCE, such changing imperial dynamics impact social group identities and lifeways.
The Helsinki Area & Language Studies initiative brings together linguistics specializing in various languages from all over the world, and produces in-depth knowledge concerning other cultures for the benefit of Finnish society. In Indigenous Studies, researchers turn their gaze towards the margins, focusing on indigenous peoples' knowledge and notions of cultures, languages, identity, history and the significance of indigenous peoples.
The up-to-date and precise linguistic and cultural knowledge can help in the solving of global problems related to the environment, climate change and well-being, and will benefit trade, tourism and immigrant integration.
Russia can be understood
There is no economics without politics and no politics without culture: the key to understanding Russia is a deep understanding of its culture. Finland is a superpower in the field of Russian studies, and Faculty of Arts' Aleksanteri Institute is the field's leading research community.
Humanities with a digital touch
The world of digital information would not function without a humanistic approach. The large corpora of the Faculty of Arts are internationally well known and attract top researchers to the Finnish capital. The historical corpus of the English language, maintained by the Varieng Research Unit, has been used for over 20 years and is still in the process of becoming more comprehensive. Knowledge of language technology is needed, for instance, in the development of automobile GPS systems and smartphones capable of recognizing speech. In addition to language studies, the new methods used in digital humanities open new perspectives for researchers in various disciplines from history to literary studies.
Research funded by European Research Council ERC
- Samu Niskanen's project Medieval publishing identifies the authors writing in Latin published original works during the period from c. 1000 to 1500.
- José Filipe Silva's project Rationality in Perception: Transformations of Mind and Cognition 1250–1550 aims to provide a more detailed and systematic account of the models of cognition that developed in the period 1250–1550.
- Marja Vierros' project Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri tries to develop an open access tool for studying Greek to benefit the academic community.
- Josephine Hoegaerts' project Vocal Articulations of Parliamentary Identity and Empire studies the political landscape of the 19th century as well as the impact of political rhetoric in European countries and their colonies.
- Maria Lasonen-Aarnio's project Success and Competence in Epistemology and Beyond develops and applies a new approach in epistemology.
- Jörg Tiedemann's research tries to develop models for natural language understanding trained on implicit information given by large collections of human translations. Found in Translation: Natural Language Understanding with Cross-lingual Grounding runs within the language technology research group.
- Jan von Plato's project The Gödel Enigma belongs to logic and its development. Its aim is to study the shorthand notes the Princeton logician Kurt Gödel, who was of Viennese origin, left behind.
- Judith Pallot examines the specific features of the Russian system of punishment inherited from the Soviet period, which shapes how prisoners are managed in the correctional facilities of the Russian Federation at the present time and how this affects the experiences of the imprisonment of different ethnic minorities.
- Volker Heyd aims to investigate how events from 5,000 years ago are still having an impact on European culture and genetic heritage in his project The Yamaya Impact on Prehistoric Europe.
- Kaius Sinnemäki studies linguistic adaptation in his project Linguistic Adaptation: Typological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives to Language Variation.