Dr. Khanina Olesya and working group (Northern Samoyedic)

375500 €

Language diversification and spread in the North: a Samoyedic story

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

This project addresses the fundamental question of the development of linguistic diversity through an analysis of linguistic variation and change. It does so by carefully reconstructing the details of evolution of Northern Samoyedic (NS) languages located at the reaches of the Lower Yenisei river in Siberia. It studies interactions between social and linguistic processes with a range of multidisciplinary methods (historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, computational analysis, geography, typology, archeology, and ecology). There are no in-depth studies of language spreads in the north, though the nomadic way of living and extremely low population density typical for these latitudes can influence particulars of linguistic diversification. Studying such outlier cases is crucial for linguistics: the more disparate cases of language development are scrutinized, the better we can understand universal principles governing human cognition and social interaction. Beside the important contribution to general linguistics anticipated from this project, it also aims to fill a clear gap in research on Uralic languages, to which Finnish also belongs. The state of knowledge on most Uralic languages have improved considerably in the last decades which allowed, in its turn, for data-rich studies of the origins of the Uralic speaking people undertaken by several interdisciplinary teams. However, publicly available data on Samoyedic, the easternmost branch of Uralic, are scarce, and as a result the internal history of this branch looks like a blind spot in all these studies. The results of the project will be publications of primary linguistic data on NS (a pan-dialectal grammar of Enets, Castrén's data on Yenisei Tundra Nenets from 1842-1844, Müller's NS wordlists from 1733-1743, unified comparative wordlists with cognate coding for all NS languages) and a reconstruction of the northward spread of Samoyedic speakers and of the rise of the internal diversity of their languages.