Terttu Nevalainen

Terttu Nevalainen is Professor Emerita of English Philology at the University of Helsinki, director of the VARIENG National Centre of Excellence 2001–2005 and 2006-2011, and Academy Professor 2010–2014. Her research interests include corpus linguistics, historical sociolinguistics and language change.
Contact information

PhD, Professor Emerita of English Philology
Room C620, Unioninkatu 40
P.O. Box 24, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
E-mail: terttu.nevalainen(at)helsinki.fi

Research interests

Keywords: English language, history of English, historical sociolinguistics, variation studies, corpus compilation and methodology.

One of the major challenges – and sources of inspiration – in linguistic research is unravelling the process of language change. My research is focused on language change in its social context. It is mostly basic research and has methodological, empirical and theoretical objectives. I also contribute to handbooks and other reference works by writing general introductions to my fields of study. I have written a textbook on Early Modern English, a historical variety of English that I have a particular affinity with, not least because it is the language of Shakespeare.

Methodologically, my work comes under the umbrella of corpus linguistics. I am one of the original compilers of the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts and the leader of the project that compiled and annotated the Corpus of Early English Correspondence, which enables advanced research on English historical sociolinguistics over four centuries from 1400 to 1800.

My empirical work contributes to sociolinguistic fact-finding by providing information on how the users of English have varied, evaluated and changed their language in different social contexts over time. This work also contributes to sociolinguistic theory formation, and to the modelling of processes of language change. By comparing linguistic processes of different kinds over time, we will be able to assess the extent to which they pattern socially in the language community, and so be in a better position to judge what may count as sociolinguistic ‘facts’ in English as opposed to other, typologically different languages. Here the past can help us understand the present.

Going back to the early days of the digital era, VARIENG has offered me and generations of English researchers a unique environment for work, discovery and collegiality. Over the years, I have also been fortunate to be able to participate in several interdisciplinary projects that have broadened my horizons and provided inspiring contexts of collaboration for my doctoral researchers. The DAMMOC project produced tools and techniques such as the Text Variation Explorer (TVE) corpus visualization tool for the study of language variation and change. The Reassessing Language Change project aimed to make past work on language change more accessible and cumulative by creating the Language Change Database (LCD), which comprises a large body of corpus-based research into the history of English. The STRATAS consortium had several subprojects that drew on structured and unstructured data in sociolinguistic research on language change.

My other academic commitments include participation in professional organizations and editorial work. I co-edit the Benjamins series Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics with Marijke van der Wal, and serve on the international editorial/advisory boards of Anglia, International Journal of English Studies, Journal of Historical Pragmatics, Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics, Miscelanéa, NOWELE, and Studia Anglica Poznaniensia. I will also continue as the editor-in-chief of the VARIENG eSeries, Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English.

Research profile in TUHAT

Recent publications