Prof. Dr. Diana Forker & Dr. Oleg Belyaev
ab Juni 2019
BMBF "Kleine Fächer, große PotenzialeExterner Link" (2017-2020)
The Caucasus has been known since antiquity as the “Mountain of tongues” and as a unique area of linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity. The investigation of this diversity through linguistic data is the goal of this project. We are building up a comprehensive lexical database of the languages of the Caucasus. It will contain the following information for every lexeme: transcription (IPA, standard orthography), precise English translation, grammatical information, audio recording, and metadata. The database will be open-access and presented by means of a website that will also contain maps of the region. In addition, the website will provide information on the languages, the cultures and the people of the Caucasus such that it can be of use not only for the scientific community but also for the general public.
We will then use quantitative statistical and phylogenetic tools for inferring the origins, dispersal and timing of the expansions of the Caucasian languages and evaluate the results in comparison with the existing literature (e.g. Nikolayev & Starostin 1994, Koryakov 2006). A key component will be to use cutting-edge phylogeographic models to infer the geographic patterning of the underlying expansions through the region. In addition, our study will allow for a very detailed representation of linguistic data that allows us to apply pioneering techniques for sequence comparison, high-level annotation, including full and partial cognates inside and across the same concepts in our dataset, and will in this way also contribute to cross-disciplinary studies by integrating, for example, the names that the languages give to the physical objects to artifacts in archaeological records, or early attestations of domestication.
This project is conducted by Oleg Belyaev and Diana ForkerExterner Link. The project closely cooperates with the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution at the MPI for the Science of Human History in Jena (DLCEExterner Link), in particular with Prof. Russel Gray, Dr. Cormac Anderson, Dr. Mattis List and Dr. Simon Greenhill. In summer 2019 a PhD student from the International Max Planck Research School for the Science of Human History (IMPRS-SHHExterner Link) will join the team.
At the moment, an international consortium of experts is gathering data for East Caucasian and West Caucasian languages. In the first expert workshop on April 12-13, 2018, around 20 researchers from the Caucasus, Moscow, the UK and Germany participated. The second workshop is planned for May 8-10, 2019.