On the borderline of Finnish and Karelian: perspectives on cognate languages and dialects (FINKA)


Under funding from the Academy of Finland for the period 2011-2014, FINKA rises to the challenge presented by the multivarious interrelationship between the eastern dialects of Finnish and their closest cognate, Karelian language. Surveying the unique and so far unexplored contact between the two in the area of Border Karelia, the project offers new perspectives on the development and contact of very closely related varieties and invokes discussion on demarcation of languages and dialects.

Theoretically, FINKA directs modern linguistic theories and methods to relatively unexplored language varieties and, on the basis of linguistic analyses, contributes to the international discussion on language contacts, grammaticalization, language typology and perceptual linguistics. In the European context, the data introduce non-Indo-European language material to test linguistic hypotheses that have primarily been formulated on the basis of Indo-European languages. At the level of data, the project adds new dimensions to the multifaceted research conducted on eastern Finnish dialects and presents data from a less known contact between Finnish and Karelian. Nationally, the project contributes to a current topic in present-day Finland due to increased public interest in Karelian. Finally, FINKA is locally linked to the manifold research of Karelia and Karelian carried out at the University of Eastern Finland.

The project will focus on three interrelated thematic areas: 1) dynamics in grammar, 2) derivation as the interface of grammar and lexicon, and 3) perceptual Karelian. The topics include the formation and use of indefinite pronouns and the multi-functional pronoun itse ‘self’, the impersonal uses of SG2 and SG3 verb forms, the uses of so-called passive forms, the deverbal noun derivatives, the development of present participles and the linguistic awareness of Karelian language. The general objectives of the project are as follows:

  • to create new knowledge on morphosyntactic and derivational phenomena in the eastern Finnish dialects and Karelian

  • to present data and description of a unique language contact in Border Karelia

  • to create new theoretical knowledge on contacts between closely related languages, their structural effects on language structure, and the emergence of mixed lects

  • to raise discussion on the demarcation of languages and dialects

  • to create a network of linguistic research on Karelian and thus consolidate international cooperation related to Karelian.

In the implementation of FINKA, the role of data will be emphasized. The use of data varies with respect to the above-mentioned thematic areas: the studies on grammar and grammaticalization will make an extensive use of authentic, audio-recorded data, word formation will be approached with the help of the substantial lexical archives of Finnish, and the research on perceptual Karelian will be implemented with interviews and tests. The project will use a detailed qualitative analysis, on the basis of which quantitative statistical analysis will be made possible whenever necessary.

FINKA will enhance knowledge of Karelian dialects, also benefitting the current revitalization and standardization process of Karelian. The project will be carried out in cooperation with the University of Eastern Finland and the State University of Petrozavodsk.