Tanja Säily

Tanja Säily is Assistant Professor in English Language at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include corpus linguistics, digital humanities, historical sociolinguistics, and the concept of productivity in linguistics. She enjoys working collaboratively, especially to develop tools and methods for humanities research. She is currently working on her Academy of Finland funded postdoc project, Historical Sociolinguistics Meets Construction Grammar: The Case of Productivity in English (HISCOP; 2020–2023). She is also a member of the Helsinki Computational History Group (COMHIS) and collaborates with computer scientists to develop corpus-­linguistic tools and methods for historical sociolinguistics in the project Interfacing Structured and Unstructured Data in Sociolinguistic Research on Language Change (STRATAS). She is a co­-compiler of the Corpora of Early English Correspondence.


PhD, Assistant Professor, Managing Editor of the VARIENG eSeries

Room C621, Unioninkatu 40
PL 24, 00014 Helsingin yliopisto, Finland
E-mail: tanja.saily(at)helsinki.fi

Construction Grammar (CxG) is a recent theory of language that focuses on what speakers must know to be able to use a language; this knowledge is expressed in terms of constructions, or form-meaning pairings, such as words or phrases. The aim of my HISCOP project is to extend CxG by drawing on historical sociolinguistics, which focuses on relationships between the individual, language and society throughout history. We will study the productivity of constructions in large historical text corpora from a sociolinguistic perspective. The purpose of the project is to increase the explanatory power of CxG, to learn more about linguistic phenomena in the field of productivity in the history of English, and to provide a more balanced picture of these phenomena by studying the language use of not only highly-educated men (as previous research has often done) but also women and the lower social ranks, who may turn out to lead linguistic change.

Focusing on lexical productivity and creativity, I explore the social embedding of vocabulary change in both private and public discourse in Modern English as a member of two DH research teams. Firstly, in the STRATAS project, we are developing an open-source environment for analysing neologisms that combines the Corpora of Early English Correspondence (CEEC) with lexicographical sources and contemporary published texts. Secondly, I collaborate with historians, linguists and computer scientists in the COMHIS research group to study changes in public discourse in large databases of text and metadata, including Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

In addition to productivity, I am interested in the social embedding of language variation and change in general, including gendered styles in the history of English as well as extralinguistic factors influencing language change. My overarching aim is to develop new ways of understanding language variation and change. To that end, I have participated in the development of the following tools and methods:

Research profile in TUHAT

  • Spring 2020: KIK-402 Kieli yhteiskunnassa ja kulttuurissa (Language in Society and Culture, with Minna Palander-Collin)
  • Autumn 2019: ENG-3013 Methodology in Corpus Linguistics
  • September 2019: LDA-3103 Linguistics in the Digital Age, guest lecturer
  • June 2019: Linguistics MA seminar, FAU Erlangen, guest lecturer
  • May 2019: Digital Humanities Hackathon, leader of the Genre and Style in Early Modern Publications team (with Simon Hengchen)
  • April 2019: LDA-H507 Current Topics in Digital Humanities I, guest lecturer
  • October 2018: LDA-3103 Linguistics in the Digital Age, guest lecturer
  • March 2018: Data Visualization in Historical Sociolinguistics workshop, Historical Sociolinguistics Young Researchers Forum
  • Spring 2018: ENG-3037 Project in Variation and Change in English (with Terttu Nevalainen and the LCD team)
  • October 2017: LDA-3103 Linguistics in the Digital Age, guest lecturer
  • Autumn 2016: ENG381 Project Work in English Philology (with Terttu Nevalainen and the STRATAS team)
  • February 2016: SSU221 Introduction to Corpus Linguistics and Computational Methods in Linguistics, guest lecturer
  • May 2015: Digital Humanities Hackathon, leader of the English Letters team (with Jukka Suomela)
  • Spring 2015: ENG381 Project Work in English Philology (with Terttu Nevalainen and Turo Vartiainen)
  • December 2014: DH Methods for Dummies workshop, Helsinki Digital Humanities Day (with Reijo Sund)
  • Spring 2012: ENG114a Text Analysis from English into Finnish I, group 5

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