Nils Erik Enkvist


Honorary Degree (1994)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


Nils Erik Enkvist, distinguished professor emeritus at Finland's Abo Akademi, is one of the world's prominent scholars in text linguistics. His innovative approach to research helped establish discourse analysis as a legitimate field of linguistics study. Professor Enkvist's bold technique, together with his wide experience and knowledge in all fields of general linguistics, has shaped the direction of linguistic study over the last several decades.

Professor Enkvist was one of the first linguists to examine complete texts rather than sentences. In departing from linguistics tradition, Professor Enkvist introduced considerations of style, textuality, and discoursal context to the field. His work has ultimately promoted language as a distinctly social human phenomenon. Professor Enkvist has also gained international eminence in the discipline of applied linguistics. At a time when most other researchers in the field only studied edited and published works, he became a leader in the systematic study of student writing. Further, he has worked to improve the writing skills of students in many countries.

Among Professor Enkvist's nearly 300 publications on text, discourse, and stylistics are numerous examples of works that have changed the course of linguistics study. Among them is his early contribution to stylistics in Linguistics and Style (1964), a book that created a new field of research by highlighting the links between literary and linguistic studies.

Professor Enkvist's ties with Indiana span nearly a decade. In 1985 he served at Purdue University as a distinguished professor in residence, and he has given guest lectures there on several other occasions. As a fellow of the Indiana University Institute for Advanced Study in 1993, he lectured at IUPUI, IU Bloomington, Purdue University (West Lafayette), and at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort WAyne. Professor Henry Remak, director of the Institute for Advanced Study, described Professor Enkvist's devotion to the faculty and students of Indiana University as "positively mind-boggling" and his stay at the institute as "not an occurrence, but an event." It is the harmonious nature of Professor Enkvist's diverse abilities that make him such a successful scholar and teacher. In the words of Alan Purves, director of the Center for Writing and Literacy at the State University of New York at Albany, Enkvist is "one of the consummate scholars of language, a person who combines technical skill with a broad humanistic background and appreciation of grace and style.....It is fitting that Indiana University be the United States institution to award him an honorary degree, given the long connection between Indiana and the Finnish-speaking world."

In 1990, the President of Finland awarded Professor Enkvist the title of Academician, making him one of only twelve members of the Academy of Finland. He has served as distinguished professor of stylistics and text research, dean of the humanities, and chancellor of Finland's Abo Akademi. Currently, Professor Enkvist is a member of the Society of Letters at Lund; a member of Finland's two learned academies, the Societas Scientarium Fennica and the Academia Scientarium Fennica; a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities; and a member of the Academia Europa.