The Kone Foundation has granted a total of EUR 6 million in funding for a language programme aimed at supporting the documentation and status of the Finno-Ugric languages and Finnish minority languages.
“Securing linguistic diversity is the most unambiguous way to try to maintain the full array of world views”, says the deputy chair of the Kone Foundation, Ilona Herlin, who has a doctorate in the Finnish language.
The Kone Foundation pledged money already in the autumn for the production of a dictionary of Old Finnish. The work was started already in the 1970s, but was suspended for lack of funding. Two volumes of what is to be a six-part dictionary had already appeared before the funding stopped. Now the third is expected to come out this year.
Spources for the dictionary includes the glossary of Mikael Agricola, old legal texts, as well as the first Finish-language bible dating back to 1642. The book is to contain information on the etymology of words, the development of sentence structures, as well as theology, law, and history of ideologies of the age of Swedish rule in Finland.
In the view of Pirkko Nuolijärvi, the director of the Institute for the Languages of Finland, the Kone Foundation’s language programme is “an incredibly magnificent investment”.
A pilot project for a dictionary of the dialects of Finnish, with between 5,000 and 6,000 entries, is to appear on line on the 28th of February, which is Kalevala Day. The day commemorates the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.
Kone Foundation Language Program 2012-2016
Documentation of small Finno-Ugrian languages, the Finnish language, and minority languages in Finland
The main objective of the Kone Foundation’s language program is to advance the documentation of small Finno-Ugrian languages, the Finnish language, and minority languages in Finland.
Written and spoken material is a vital part of documenting languages and so the language program pays particular attention to collecting, mapping and maintaining linguistic corpora. A prerequisite for profiting from the material is its refinement and the improvement of its availability and usability.
Consequently, it is important to assure that both old and new corpora are made available for the open and interactive use of not only the academic community but society as a whole. The language program also encourages open interaction between language users and researchers during the various stages of the documentation process by, for example, applying the methodology of citizen science.
For some time now, the Kone Foundation has been dedicated to advancing interdisciplinarity; recently, there has also been talk of combining the perspectives of science and art. It follows that projects supported by the language program are also encouraged toward multidisciplinarity by making use of different corpora, for example. Interaction between art and science is also being advanced.
In order to achieve these objectives, the Foundation will be involved, to varying degree, in the realization of directed searches and new projects. In addition, the language program will be supported by existing grant applications as the selection process will focus specifically on projects that fulfill the objectives of the program
Furthermore, the language program will make use of existing networks, advance networking in various ways and encourage cooperation between people working within the same field in order to achieve its goals.
Language is not only an important tool for conceptualizing the world around us but it is also an essential part, and reinforcer, of one’s identity. From the point-of-view of the Kone Foundation, languages and the linguistic diversity of the world hold intrinsic value that should be guarded and supported. The research, documentation and support of languages helps to understand society, culture and the world, which, in turn, is information that can be profited from in many different ways.
The language program will be translated into English and possibly also Russian during 2012.