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According to Mikko Laitinen, linguistic data can provide a better understanding of humans and society.

Linguists understand society Thanks to digitalisation, new windows of opportunity have opened up for language scholars and students in languages and linguistics. New types of research materials and new processing skills are changing the ways we think about language studies. TEXT NINA VENHE PHOTO VARPU HEISKANEN

“UNIVERSITIES ARE currently investing

“When we operate online, we

and society. For example, we can analyse

in the digital humanities. I believe that

constantly leave linguistic footprints.

consumer behaviour, political aspirations,

students who understand linguistics and

These serve as a never-ending source of

or detect hate speech.”

have programming skills will have no

research material for linguists, and these

trouble finding a job in the future,” says

linguistic footprints can be utilised in


Professor of English Mikko Laitinen.

many ways outside academia,” Laitinen

is currently involved in a collaborative


project that studies linguistic data from

According to Laitinen, the core of the humanities will remain unchanged, but

“For example, two of the world’s

Twitter alongside more traditional mate-

technological advances will also turn the

most valuable companies, Facebook and

rials. In this project, researchers analyse

humanities into something digital. In the

Google, do not own anything concrete in

differences between materials that are

past, research materials were static, and

the traditional sense of things. They have

static and corpora that are updated in real

researchers spent years collecting and

merely taken into use and harnessed lin-


analysing them. Nowadays, electronic

guistic data produced by us humans.”

corpora are constantly being updated in real time. “This is collaboration between many

By mining digital masses of data, it may be possible to predict future trends. “Special skills are needed to analyse

“In my experience, the curriculum for language and culture students should include the basics of programming. This might also inspire a completely new

different fields. A linguist determines what

linguistic data. This data provides us

group of students to take up linguistics

is studied, a programmer analyses the data,

with a better understanding of humans

and language studies.”

and a visualiser can pinch in by making a visual presentation of the findings. Naturally, the more one can do on his or her own, the better the employment prospects.”

LANGUAGE IS A FOUNDATION for many things. This is something scholars of the humanities have always known, but researchers of other fields, too, are now starting to realise this.


When we operate online, we constantly leave linguistic footprints. These serve as a never-ending source of research material for linguists.”

UEF Bulletin 2018  
UEF Bulletin 2018