Kaisa Häkkinen receives honorary title of Academician of Science

27 Nov 2020

Research Director, Professor Emeritus Kari Alitalo and Professor Emerita Kaisa Häkkinen have been conferred the honorary title of Academician of Science. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö granted the titles at a presidential session today, 27 November 2020.

The title of Academician can be held by no more than 16 distinguished Finnish scientists and scholars at a time. The title of Academician of Science is awarded by the President of the Republic based on nominations by the Academy of Finland.

“The role of science is to help people understand themselves and the world”

Kaisa Häkkinen (b. 1950) served as Acting Professor and Professor of Finnish Language and Literature at Åbo Akademi University in 1993–1999 and as Professor of Finnish Language at the University of Turku in 1999–2015. She was Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Turku, in 2004–2009.

Häkkinen’s main research interests include the history and development of the Finnish language, its phonetic and morphological structure, the history and etymology of Finnish words and the history of language research.  She is known, first and foremost, for her studies into the origin and history of words. In the 2000s, she has taken a special interest in studying old literary Finnish and the Finnish language in the works of Mikael Agricola.

Kaisa Häkkinen has written several monographs in Finnish, including From Agricola to Modern Finnish: The History of Written Finnish (1994); Finnish Prehistory in the Light of Linguistics (1996); Where Do Words Come From: Finnish Etymology (1990); The Name of the Bird: A History of the Finnish Ornithological Nomenclature (2004); and Etymological Dictionary of Modern Finnish (2004), updated in an online version in 2020. In addition to her scientific output, Häkkinen has written several textbooks in Finnish, including Basic Linguistics (1994) and The History of Finnish 2: The History of Finnish Language Research (2008).

Häkkinen’s scientific production is extremely high-quality and high-impact. She has also devoted much effort to disseminating results in her field of research to wider audiences. She regards the history of language as the history of humans, community and thinking, and Finnish language as an integral part of Finnish identity.

“Changes in language and different-aged layers of language reflect the structure and life-forms of the language community at different times in history. The changes that happen and the situations and values prevailing at different times always leave their traces in language. Although the history of written Finnish spans no more than few centuries, we can trace in this period a phenomenal development from an everyday language spoken by ordinary folk into one of modern information society’s most important tools and instruments of artistic expression. In large part through a conscious development effort, the Finnish language has been built into a multi-tiered system that meets all the criteria of a cultural language,” Kaisa Häkkinen says.

Knowing how a language has changed and evolved over time, she continues, is crucial to better understanding its current substance. Language is continuing to constantly evolve, and the elements in our language today have been layered upon each other over time.

“Whatever the discipline, the role of science is to help people better understand themselves and the world they inhabit. The ideals of scientific integrity, such as critical reflection, honesty, openness, reliability and objectivity are all good principles that are just as applicable in everyday life, not only in doing research,” Kaisa Häkkinen says.

“The humanities are about studying humans, our thinking and our actions – questions that are of fundamental importance for humans. Language and conceptual thinking are closely interwoven.”


  • Kaisa Häkkinen, Academician of Science, tel. +358 40 741 2173, kahakki(at)utu.fi
  • Heikki Mannila, President of the Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 001, heikki.mannila(at)aka.fi
  • Read about Academician Kari Alitalo

Additional material

Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen, Director of Communications
tel. +358 295 335 118

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