Associate professor (tenure track) Kaius Sinnemäki is the PI of ERC Starting Grant project Linguistic Adaptation: Typological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives to Language Variation. Sinnemäki is working on language comparison, language variation, universals of language, and language complexity by using data from tens or hundreds of languages at the same time. The data for this kind of research typically come from reference grammars which are descriptions of the principal properties of a language’s sound system and grammar. He has collaborated nationally and internationally with typologists, corpus linguists, historical linguists, and sociolinguists to spearhead a typological approach to language complexity. His early work led to the understanding that this research required sophisticated language comparison but also advanced quantification, which he has combined in his research since then. He has hands-on training in applying statistical approaches to researching language universals, and a broad interest in researching why languages are the way they are.
In his research, Sinnemäki has focused primarily on systematic variation in human language and has produced linguistic analyses for several linguistic features in up to 850 languages. He has researched especially typological correlations between linguistic features (e.g., case marking and word order) and how their complexity may be partly determined by the sociolinguistic environments in which those features are learned and used. In addition, he has researched the interaction of nationalism, language, and religion, and the theoretical and methodological foundations of language comparison.