Mapping the linguistic landscape of the Helsinki metropolitan area: From linguistic groups to discourse communities

Cities in Finland and around the world are becoming increasingly multilingual and -cultural. Consequently, there is a growing need to understand urban multilingualism and its effects. The goal of this project is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the linguistic landscape of the Helsinki metropolitan area by combining data from official registers and social media platforms.

This novel combination of data provides insights on the residents’ perceived linguistic identity and the languages they use and encounter in everyday life. By focusing on language use, the project seeks to move beyond linguistic groups and towards identifying discourse communities, which form around shared experiences and issues in the city and extend across linguistic groups. To do so, the project combines methods from linguistics, natural language processing, geoinformatics and ethnography. Specifically, the project aims to:

  1. Describe the linguistic landscape of the Helsinki metropolitan area, while accounting for the 'pulse' of the city to capture the flow of languages in space at various timescales
  2. Assess changes in the linguistic landscape in terms of richness, diversity and potential for language contact, and to identify discourse communities between linguistic groups
  3. Develop generic methods for studying urban multilingualism using big register and social media data, and how these data may be validated using ethnographic methods

PEOPLE

Tuomo Hiippala (PI)

Tuomas Väisänen

Hanna-Mari Pienimäki

Tuuli Toivonen

Olle Järv

Henrikki Tenkanen

Kerli Müürisepp

Vuokko Heikinheimo

FUNDING

The project is funded by a three-year grant from the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.