Research profile

Ryhmäkuva ihmisistä.

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.

An interpreter of languages and cultures

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

Kuva kirjasta, jossa venäjänkielistä tekstiä.

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.

The profile of the University of Helsinki Faculty of Arts has three distinct orientations that guide most of the fields:

  • A historical-temporal orientation: Many of the fields represented in the Faculty have a strong temporal dimension: they examine long temporal spans, traditions and changes in linguistic, cultural and social phenomena as well as contemporary issues.
  • A global orientation: The global scope of the Faculty’s fields is notable in the area of language and cultural studies, including at the international level.
  • The Faculty of Arts has compiled and continues to compile materials for different fields of the humanities (e.g., language corpora). Compiling such material and rendering it usable is difficult and labour intensive, but the results are highly important for the research community both in Finland and internationally. The infrastructure for the humanities is one of the key elements of the Faculty’s reputation.

Research focus areas:

  • Research in cultural and linguistic diversity
  • Research in interaction
  • Language technology and corpus studies and digital humanities
  • Russian Studies

The Faculty boasts several strong fields, some of which are very small (e.g., classical studies). The viability of these fields is reinforced through Faculty-wide collaboration.

Established in autumn 2010, the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), consisting of leading international researchers, supports the Faculty of Arts’ research activities. The SAB members visit Helsinki each year and contribute new perspectives from around the world to Finnish humanities research. They also provide valuable feedback on how the research conducted in Helsinki appears to outside observers.

The Scientific Advisory Board comprises the following researchers (2017–2020):

  • Professori Nikolai Vakhtin, European University at St. Petersburg
  • Professori Sigrid Thorgeirsdottir, University of Iceland
  • Professori Jane Ohlmeyer, Trinity College Dublin
  • Professori Bernd Kortmann, University of Freiburg
  • Professori Thomas DuBois, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In 2018 and 2019 the University of Helsinki carried out an assessment of its research. Paavo Pylkkänen, vice-dean responsible for research affairs, says, that all in all, the Faculty fared very well.

– It confirmed that in many fields, we are at the top level globally. Of course, we also received valuable feedback on what requires further development. There was research in every department that was graded ‘excellent’. Our societal impact was also highly commended.

Final report: Research Assessment 2018–19 University of Helsinki (pdf)