VIRSU symposium 2020 at the CIFU XIII: Call for papers

Call for papers / XIII International Congress for Finno-Ugric Studies (Vienna, August 16–21, 2020) / Symposium: VIRSU (Finno-Ugric languages as target languages)

Within the XIII International Congress for Finno-Ugric Studies, the VIRSU network will organise a symposium on Finno-Ugric languages as target languages. VIRSU (, originally a network of researchers and teachers of Finnish and Estonian as target languages, now aims at fostering wider international cooperation and bringing together all researchers who work on any Finno-Ugric language as a second or a foreign language.

The main goal of this symposium is to prepare ground for cooperation in the area of applied-linguistic research and teaching of Finno-Ugric languages. We especially welcome papers about the teaching and learning of Finno-Ugric minority languages, but presentations dealing with Hungarian, Finnish, or Estonian as a target language are welcome as well, especially if they include a wider perspective, inviting international comparisons and/or targeting a wider, international audience.

Within this framework, the papers presented can deal with a variety of issues, such as

  • How does research into the Finno-Ugric languages challenge previous research into second language acquisition?
  • How can Hungarian, Finnish or Estonian applied-linguistic research support and inspire research of the teaching and learning of Finno-Ugric minority languages, or vice versa?
  • How are bilingualism or multilingualism understood in contexts involving a Finno-Ugric language? How are they realized in the education systems?
  • How can relatedness or perceived similarity between languages be taken into account in the teaching and learning of Finno-Ugric languages?
  • How can language technology / corpus linguistics / translation studies / etc. be utilized in the teaching and learning of Finno-Ugric languages?
  • What kind of special problems do heritage-language speakers of Finno-Ugric languages have (for example, second-generation migrants or dispersed minorities such as Saami speakers in the South)? How can their language acquisition or language maintenance be supported?
  • etc.

The maximum length of each abstract is 3000 characters (including spaces). Abstract proposals must be submitted by September 30, 2019, using the electronic submission tool (for detailed information, see Upon submission, you should classify your abstract as a submission to the VIRSU symposium. In this conference, each participant can submit maximally two abstracts: one as the lead author (presenting author), one as a co-author.

Please note that the abstracts must be in English. The title of the abstract, however, should be in the language in which you plan to give your talk. In addition to English, the actual papers can be presented in Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, German or Russian, in which case visual support in English is strongly recommended.

The publishing of symposium proceedings as such is not planned, but all participants are invited to submit papers based on their presentations to the journal Lähivõrdlusi. Lähivertailuja.

For additional information about the International Congress for Finno-Ugric Studies, see

Organizers: Helka Riionheimo (University of Eastern Finland), Annekatrin Kaivapalu (University of Turku/University of Tallinn), Johanna Laakso (University of Vienna)


VIRSU: Finno-Ugric languages as target languages

VIRSU, an emblematically Finnish word denoting a traditional shoe made of birch bark, is also an acronym combining Fi. VIRo ‘Estonian’ with SUomi ‘Finnish’. In the world of Finnic linguistics, VIRSU has been the name of a research project and conferences uniting those who explore the questions of Estonian and Finnish as foreign languages.

This cooperation began in Finnish-Estonian meetings that took place in Tartu and Tallinn in 1997, and it has gradually expanded. (More about the history of VIRSU.) VIRSU meetings, workshops and conferences have been organised regularly, either independently or in the framework of a larger conference, and both theoretical and applied-linguistic publications have appeared.

The need for skills in Finno-Ugric languages has multiplied, especially in trade, in increasing scientific and academic cooperation, and in travel, as much as for general educational purposes. True, this mainly concerns the three Finno-Ugric state languages (Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian). However, due to the increasing awareness of the linguistic human rights of minorities, the teaching of Finno-Ugric minority languages will also be of more and more interest in applied linguistics.

The third international VIRSU conference in Joensuu 19.–20.1.2007 suggested to extend the cooperation to all researchers of Fenno-Ugric languages as a second language. Since then, VIRSU has been attempting to extend its range to all Finno-Ugric languages. Suggestions for further steps in developing cooperation are welcome.

The aim of the VIRSU project is to compare the particular features involved in the acquisition and teaching of these languages and to analyse the language situation in countries in which Finno-Ugric languages are spoken. Most of the previous research has been concerned with the acquisition of Indo-European languages, and thus research of typologically different languages will either support or challenge earlier findings. The results of this research in Finno-Ugric languages will contribute an important new dimension and will be applicable in practical teaching situations and the design of teaching materials.