Matti Rissanen

Matti Rissanen was Professor Emeritus of English Philology at the University of Helsinki.

His main field of interest was corpus-based analysis of the history of English syntax and lexis, from Old to Late Modern English and he was the leader of the project compiling The Helsinki Corpus of English Texts (publ. in 1991). He was an active member of the Research Unit for the Study of Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), at the University of Helsinki.

Our dear colleague and friend Matti passed away on 24 January 2018, and this page remains as a memory of him. In memoriam on Varieng's blog

Contact information


PhD, Professor Emeritus of English Philology

University of Helsinki

Research interests

My main research topic at the moment is the origin and development of linking words (prepositions, conjunctions, conjuncts) in English, from the point of view of long diachrony, from Old to Present-day English. I am an active member of a small project concentrating on this topic.  I am particularly interested in the role played by grammaticalisation and contact in this development. To give just a few examples: Was save ‘except’ borrowed from French as a grammaticalised connective in the fourteenth century, or does it go back to either the verb save or the adjective safe borrowed from French a little earlier? Why is notwithstanding relatively uncommon and stylistically marked in Present-day English although it was much more common than despite or in spite of in earlier English? How did ere and before compete as temporal connectives from Old to Present-day English? etc.

I am also interested in a more general long-diachrony development of English, with special reference to the origin of the Southern English Standard in late Middle and early Modern English. To what extent does this standard variety of English go back to the language used in statutory texts and other official documents?

I am a member of an international corpus compilation project which concentrates on transcribing the documents of the Salem Witchcraft Trials from the late 17th century. The main result of the project, the 1000-page volume Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt was published in January 2009 (see my list of publications). The texts provide valuable information on Colonial American English with a wide spectrum of types of writing, speech-based prose and social variability. Our international team is now planning a computerized corpus including all the texts published in that volume. 

Research profile in TUHAT

Recent publications