Research Unit of Languages and Literature

Research Unit of Languages and Literature explores questions and phenomena in language studies, literature and cultural studies. Its research builds on theories and approaches in functional linguistics, interaction analysis, conversation analysis, cognitive linguistics, sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, second language acquisition, communication, research on cultural memory and imagination. In general, its research studies social and cultural changes in communicative practices from linguistic, literary and cultural perspectives, hence aligning closely with the University of Oulu’s research focus area Understanding humans in change and the research strategy (Cultural change, human interaction and agency; Man, well-being and the environment) in the Faculty of Humanities.

In recent years, the unit has built a strong international profile, which is also unique in Finland, within a theoretical framework in humanities that studies language and meaning beyond the verbal through the concepts of ‘multimodality’ and ‘intermediality’: 

First, it explores processes and impact of digitalisation as they are evident in multimodal interactions, language use and language learning, and as they relate to digital inclusion, empowerment of migrants, minorities and elderly, language learning and language use online.

Second, it studies social sustainability as an interactional and discursive phenomenon relative to such issues as migration and minority languages, intercultural encounters, professional training and integration, talk and language in crisis situations, interaction in nature and at work, distance work and distance learning.

Third, it investigates literary and cultural meaning-making processes as they emerge from complex relationships across media types (e.g. print, digital texts, audio books, games, virtual reality) and relate to as they relate to literary and cultural phenomena, their poetic and narrative strategies, or cultural traumas, memories and imagination.

The research is both theoretical and empirical: theories will inform the analysis of empirical data, and the analysis of empirical materials contribute to theory-building. Researchers in language studies use digital corpora including natural conversations (audio and video), written texts and internet language, and in literature and culture, materials are drawn from diverse literary and cultural media. Researchers also actively develop data collection methodologies utilising newest technologies (e.g. 360° video, virtual reality, automatic speech recognition) and develop research infrastructures (data management).

The RU takes the university’s third area of responsibility seriously as it strives to ensure that research can contribute to the betterment of society. This includes the education of communication experts for northern Finland, the education of future teachers and training in various work-life contexts.