Researcher of the Month: Mikael Varjo

Mikael Varjo
Photo: Emmi Saari

Kielipankki – The Language Bank of Finland is a service for researchers using language resources. Mikael Varjo tells us about his research on zero-subject constructions in the ArkiSyn corpus containing everyday Finnish conversation.

Who are you?

I am Mikael Varjo and I am currently working as a university teacher at the University of Turku. In March 2023, I defended my doctoral thesis on zero-subject constructions, also at the University of Turku. My interests are diverse, ranging from teaching and researching Finnish as a second and foreign language to research in usage-based syntax.

What is your research topic?

In my doctoral thesis I examine zero-subject constructions (zero person in the subject position) in Finnish everyday conversation. I have extracted my data from the morphosyntactically annotated ArkiSyn corpus, which I also helped to build as a project researcher in 2015–2016 before starting my own dissertation.

Previous research on the zero person has been quite qualitatively oriented. My research aims to fill this methodological gap by combining two approaches: quantitative corpus linguistics and qualitative interactional linguistics. In my research, I examine the characteristics, variation, contexts of use, and functions of zero-subject constructions in spoken interaction. My research reveals that the grammatical and semantic features typically associated with the zero person also distinguish the subcategories of zero-subject constructions. The differences between subcategories are also linked to the tasks the constructions have in interaction. Typically, zero-subject constructions are used for expressing stance towards something that is under discussion, (joint) planning, sharing of experiences, feelings and desires, or for giving directives.

How is your research related to Kielipankki?

The ArkiSyn corpus is available in Kielipankki. In addition, Kielipankki provided important support in the early stages of my doctoral studies as I was taking my first steps in language technology, natural language processing and automatic text processing. Converting zero-subject constructions extracted from the ArkiSyn corpus into a format that was easy to process and met the needs of my dissertation required a lot of learning over the years. With the help of the Kielipankki’s methodological course Corpus Clinic, I was able to get started in the autumn of 2015.


Varjo, Mikael. 2022. Greater than zero? A study of referentially open and specific necessity constructions in Finnish everyday conversation. Eesti Ja Soome-Ugri Keeleteaduse Ajakiri. Journal of Estonian and Finno-Ugric Linguistics, 13(2), 5–46.

Suomalainen, Karita & Mikael Varjo. 2020. When personal is interpersonal. Organizing interaction with deictically open personal constructions in Finnish everyday conversations. Journal of Pragmatics, 168, 98–118.

Varjo, Mikael. 2019. It Takes All Kinds to Make a Zero: Employing Multiple Correspondence Analysis to Categorize an Open Personal Construction in Conversational Finnish. Corpus Linguistics Research, 5, 55–87.

Varjo, Mikael ja Karita Suomalainen. 2018. From zero to ‘you’ and back: A mixed methods study comparing the use of two open personal constructions in Finnish. Nordic Journal of Linguistics, 41(3), 333–366.

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The FIN-CLARIN consortium consists of a group of Finnish universities along with CSC – IT Center for Science and the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus). FIN-CLARIN helps the researchers in Finland to use, refine, preserve and share their language resources. The Language Bank of Finland is the collection of services that provides the language materials and tools for the research community.

All previously published Language Bank researcher interviews are stored in the Researcher of the Month archive. This article is also published on the website of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Helsinki.