I am a postdoctoral researcher in the multidisciplinary BEDLAN project studying linguistic divergence and human past via language data. The work I do is multidisciplinary, as I examine linguistic material with methods and a framework developed for analysing biological data.
So how did I end up with a project like this? I was working on my master’s degree in evolutionary genetics at the University of Jyväskylä in 2009, when I heard that a recently founded multidisciplinary project funded by the Kone Foundation was looking for PhD students to work with Finnish dialects using quantitative methods. “This is the coolest thing ever” I thought, applied and got in, and so my multidisciplinary life in Turku started at the beginning of 2010.
Since then I have learned a lot about – for example – linguistics, history, archeology, and GIS-methods, which suits me well because I have always been interested in different fields. I have presented my work to a variety of audiences and become an expert in multidisciplinary discussions, as that has been part of my everyday life when working with this topic.
In 2016 I defended my thesis, titled ‘Macro- and microevolution of languages: Exploring linguistic divergence with approaches from evolutionary biology’. In my thesis, I applied the framework of evolutionary biology and Bayesian model-based methods for the first time on Uralic languages and the dialects of Finnish. I also emphasized the connection between humans and their natural environment and its possible influences on spatial patterns of linguistic variation.
I spent the academic year 2017-2018 at the Institute of Estonian and General linguistics, University of Tartu, Estonia. More specifically, I was the first postdoctoral researcher in their recently founded Collegium for Transdisciplinary Studies in Archaeology, Genetics and Linguistics. I began my project with the Finnic languages and utilized the vast dialect atlas of Finnic languages to study the linguistic past of the Finnic area.