Rethinking borders and regions april 29 2010 university of eastern finland joensuu
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RETHINKING BORDERS AND REGIONS April 29, 2010 University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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RETHINKING BORDERS AND REGIONS April 29, 2010 University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu. Borders and Bridges in Minds and Languages Arto Mustajoki , University of Helsinki Topics of the talk.

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RETHINKING BORDERS AND REGIONS April 29, 2010 University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu

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RETHINKING BORDERS AND REGIONSApril 29, 2010University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu

Borders and Bridges in

Minds and Languages

Arto Mustajoki,

University of Helsinki

Topics of the talk

  • A Model of (mis)communication (with special attention to mental world)

  • Russian and Finnish as languages

  • Stereotypes

  • Bridges = similarities in Russian and Finnish cultures

  • Borders = differences between Russian and Finnish cultures

  • An example of communicative behaviour

  • Concluding remarks

Differentlevels of understanding

  • John understands (doesn’t understand) modern art / mathematics / his wife(’s behaviour) // Russian / American politics.

  • John understood (didn’t understand)what Paula said.

A model of (mis)communication

Mentalworld of the Speaker



Referential world




Mentalworld of the Recipient


An old Volvo and Toyota were standing in the street.

John studies Chinese language and literature.

John studies Chinese language and biology.

John studies Chinese language and philosophy.

Where is Liza’s photograph?

Elements of the Mental World

  • The communicative (linguistic) ability

  • Cultural and intellectual background (mental set, thought structure, scene, script; kartina mira, concepts, kognitivnaya baza, kollektivnoe prostranstvo)

  • The cognitive system (patterns of thinking)

  • Relations between the interlocutors (motivation, chemistry)

  • Emotional and physiological state

  • Contextual elements

Modes of communication

  • Normal Mode = no special attention to the listener, egocentric speech

  • Adaptation Mode = regulation of speech by taking into account the mental world of the recipient

Russian and Finnish as languages

  • The only real (psychological) barrier and obstacle is the Cyrillic alphabet

  • A lot of similarities:

    • U menya est’ -construction

    • Rich morphology (several cases, endings in verb conjugation)

    • Rich word formation (uchit’, uchitel’, uchenik, uchenie, uchebnik etc.)

    • Relatively free word order

    • No articles

    • A lot of impersonal structures

Russian and Finnish as languages 2

  • Differences cause no trouble because they are familiar from other European languages (more consonants, gender, he/she distinction, forgot where?)

  • The only really Russian feature: a semi-passive construction expressing something unexpected and caused by an uncontrolled force:

    • Veterunëslodku(Wind took the boat) = active voice

    • Lodkabylaunesenavetrom(The boat was taken by wind) = passive voice

    • Lodkuuneslovetrom(“It happened that the boat was taken by wind”) = contamination of active and passive voice

Stereotypes: how big are the differences

Between the Russians and the Finns?

Between the ”Eastern Finns” and the ”Western Finns”?

Bridges = similarities in Russian and Finnish cultures

  • Basic features of a civilized Western type living:

    living conditions, housing, food, clothing, means of transport, rules of politeness, educational structure (schools, universities), urban environment

  • Northern-like climate (clear differences between seasons)

Bridges = similarities in Russian and Finnish cultures

  • Special features: Finnish–Russian connections:

  • the fundamental elements of life: vodka (transparent strong alcohol drink) and sauna / banya;

    in addition: dacha

  • Russian impact on Finnish culture and traditions;

  • about 300 Russian loanwords in Finnish:

    savotta ‘logging site’; lusikka ‘spoon’; raamattu ‘Bible’; ikkuna ‘window’; also many slang words: mesta ‘place’;

    cf. only 4-5 Finnish loanwords in Russian, mainly fish names

Borders = differences in Russian and Finnish cultures

  • What makes the Russians more alien than a “normal” neighbour for whom people tend to have hard feelings? (cf. Ireland, Portugal)

    size: Russia is a huge country, a Great Power

    language: Russian belongs to a totally different language group; the Cyrillic alphabet emphasizes the strangeness

    religion: Orthodox vs. Lutheran church

    attitude to equal rights: desire for strong leaders vs. Scandinavian type democracy


Special features of Russian mentality (Sternin)

  • Collective consciousness and existence(sobornost’)

  • Warmth and cordiality in social relations

  • Passive observer of what is going on

  • Historical tolerance

  • Impulsiveness in everyday behaviour

    (not thinking too much of the future)

  • Desire for extremism (avoidance of average)

  • Need for ideals

Special features of Russian mentality 2 (Sternin)

  • Disdain for laws and rules

  • Aspiration for justice

  • Priority of spiritual and intellectual life over the material

  • National self-criticism

  • Passivity in gaining knowledge

  • Hope of a centralized solving of problems

  • Belief in a quick resolution of complex troubles

Communicative behaviour

Communicative behaviour

Experiment on communicative behaviour

X is hurrying to a meeting. In the street (s)he meets a friend that (s)he has not seen for a long time. What does X do?Finns Russians

Concluding remarks

  • There are differences in mental worlds between Russians and Finns

    • In background information (who is Pushkin, Leino? What is the historical role of Napoleon, Mannerheim, Lenin)

    • In values and ways of thinking (what do these things mean for me? family, babushka, friends, president, state, democracy, patriotism, law, justice, work, collective at work, holidays, dacha, money, a book, underground)

    • In communicative behaviour (how to act as a host, a tourist, a student; what is the “average” attitude to policemen, politicians, businessmen, immigrants, other ethnic groups)

  • The differences may hinder “fluent” understanding

Concluding remarks 2

Two “howevers”

  • There are more bridges (similarities in these cultures) to understanding than we (Finns) usually admit

  • If we are motivated, use of the Adaptation Mode helps to overcome possible causes of misunderstanding

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