Lines of study

1) Patterns of linguistic divergence.

We use the knowledge accumulated in Uralic historical linguistics, studies of Finnic languages and in Finnish dialectology to study patterns of linguistic divergence. By applying different computational methods, mostly derived from evolutionary biology and geography, we transform the outcomes of basic historical linguistics into readily usable numerical data and outputs that can be exploited in other quantitative approaches (e.g. phylogenetic trees with divergence time estimates and likelihoods of branching events). Studying the actual fit of computational methods to linguistic data is one of our key aspects (Syrjänen et al. 2013 for the fit of phylogenetic method to Uralic lexical data, Lehtinen et al. 2014 for how loan words affect the phylogenetic models, Syrjänen et al. 2016 how population genetic approach fit the dialect data).

2) Mechanisms of linguistic divergence.

Within linguistics, linguistic divergence is often seen as an outcome of intra-lingual factors; the frequencies of linguistic variants vary under different settings such as changes in sociolinguistic environments. Within the BEDLAN-team, a KIPPO-project studies the sociolinguistic drivers of dialectal change. AikaSyyni funding instead is targeted to study how extra-linguistic factors, especially spatial and temporal variation in natural environment, could induce divergence of human populations and their languages. This approach mirrors studies in ecological speciation, in which the first step of speciation (here, language formation) is population divergence (here, dialectal divergence). An introduction to ecological divergence of population is found in (Vesakoski 2009). BEDLAN’s first paper about language divergence under environmental constraints focused on Uralic tree and large scale temporal variation in temperature (Honkola et al. 2013). The more precise causal study for linguistic divergence with extra-linguistic factors (spatial environmental and ecological and cultural variation, administrative history) was done with Finnish dialects (Honkola et al, under review).

3) Methodological development to study the (potential) joint dispersion and evolution of cultural and genetic history.

The aim of holistic understanding of human past necessitates not only detailed work in each of the fields and in different geographic areas, but also methodological innovations to merge the fields. BEDLAN develops methods to study the co-variation of genetic, cultural and linguistic landscapes. The methodological development focuses on the well-studied area of Finland as a proving ground, but also on the Uralic speaker area as a whole.