Jenni Santaharju (née Leppänen)

Jenni Santaharju

Major interests

  • Linguistic populations
  • Language change in time and place, divergence and convergence of linguistic lineages
  • Uralic languages, Finnish dialects, and city vernaculars of Tampere and Helsinki

About me

I am an evolutionary biologist fascinated by linguistic variation in time and space. My interests concern how changes in linguistic variation lead to differentiation of groups, and on the other hand, how interaction of these groups affect their differentiation. I am applying population genetic methods to linguistic data, and focusing on three different levels of variation: languages, dialects, and city vernaculars.

In my master’s thesis I studied movements of individuals in space. I followed Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) in Nuuksio national park, and estimated their home ranges and habitat use. In my PhD thesis I examined population differentiation and phylogeography of Myrmica ants in the Palearctic region. I also used both genetic and behavioral approach to study genetic divergence sympatric queen morphs of Myrmica rubra. Since 2014 I have been working as a post doc in the BEDLAN research group and focusing on Uralic languages, Finnish dialects, and city vernacular of Helsinki. Recently, I was 1.5 years on parental leave. Outside office, I am running around with our little boy, with my little dog in agility, or after birds.

List of publications

Published peer-reviewed articles

  • Kuparinen, O., Peltonen, J., Mustanoja, L., Leino, U. & Santaharju, J. Lects in Helsinki Finnish – a probabilistic component modeling approach. Language Variation and Change, accepted for publication, 2021.
  • Kuparinen, O., Mustanoja, L., Peltonen, J., Santaharju, J. & Leino, U. 2019: Muutosmallit Helsingin puhekielessä. Patterns of change in a longitudinal corpus of three points in time. Sananjalka 61(61), 30-56. , preprint pdf
  • Honkola, T., Santaharju, J., Syrjänen, K. & Pajusalu, K. 2019. Clustering lexical variation of Finnic languages based on Atlas Linguarum Fennicarum. Linguistica Uralica 55:(3), 161-184., pdf
  • Lehikoinen, A., Fraixedas, S., Burgas, D., Eriksson, H., Henttonen, H., Laakkonen, H., Lehikoinen, P., Lehtomäki, J., Leppänen, J., Mäkeläinen, S., Niemimaa, J., Pihlajaniemi, M., Santaharju. J. & Välimäki, K. The impact of weather and the phase of the rodent cycle on breeding populations of waterbirds in Finnish Lapland. Ornis Fennica 93: 31-46.
  • Leppänen, J., Seppä, P., Vepsäläinen, K., & Savolainen, R. 2016: Mating isolation between the ant Myrmica rubra and its microgynous social parasite. Insectes Sociaux (63), 79-86.
  • Leppänen, J., Seppä, P., Vepsäläinen, K., & Savolainen, R. 2015: Genetic divergence between the sympatric queen morphs of the ant Myrmica rubra. Molecular Ecology 24 (10): 2463-2476., pdf
  • Leppänen, J., Vepsäläinen, K., Anthoni, H. & Savolainen, R. 2013: Comparative phylogeography of the ants Myrmica ruginodis and Myrmica rubra. Journal of Biogeography,40 (3):479-491.
  • Leppänen, J., Vepsäläinen, K. & Savolainen, R. 2011: Phylogeography of the ant Myrmica rubra and its inquiline social parasite. Ecology and Evolution 1: 46-62.

Pending manuscripts

  • Santaharju, J., Honkola, T., Seppä, P., Syrjänen, K., Leino, U. & Vesakoski, O. Manuscript: Estimating linguistic convergence and divergence with population genetic methods. Manuscript.
  • Kuparinen, O., Peltonen, J., Mustaoja, L., Leino, U. & Santaharju, J. Linguistic styles in real time – a topic modeling approach. Manuscript.


  • Leppänen, J. 2012: Phylogeography and population genetics of social parasitism in Myrmica ants. Doctoral dissertation (article-based), University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Department of Biosciences, 109 pages.
  • Leppänen, J. 2005: Oravan elinpiirit ja elinympäristön käyttö. Pro gradu thesis, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, 52 pages.

Book chapters

  • Leppänen, J. 2009: Liito-orava on öisen latvuston huimapää. Luonnossa nisäkkäät 1. Weilin+Göös, p. 96-97.
  • Leppänen, J. 2009: Orava – pihapiirin tuttu pörröhäntä. Luonnossa nisäkkäät 1. Weilin+Göös, p. 44-45.
  • Leppänen, J. 2005: Orava – metsän akrobaatti. Jahtimailla – Riistanisäkkäät. Weilin+Göös. p. 212-25.

Contact Information

University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Organismal and Evolutionary Research Programme

Email: jenni.leppanen(at)