Research at Finno-Ugric Languages

Our research is focused on the Finno-Ugric languages spoken in the central Volga region in Russia, i.e. on Mari, Mordvin and Udmurt. Our research topics include the structure and history of these languages and their relation with the Turkic languages of the area, Tatar and Chuvash. We are working in close collaboration with scholars of the Mari, Mordovia and Udmurt State Universities.  

We develop electronic corpora of the Finno-Ugric languages of the Volga area and promote the vitality of these languages. The Research Unit for Volgaic Languages, which operates under Finno-Ugric Languages, co-ordinates our research projects.

Hungarian, especially its lexicon, phraseology and language teaching, is also studied at Finno-Ugric Languages. 

Our themes for research include, for example

  • Lexicon in the languages of the Volga region
  • Language contacts in the Volga region
  • Structure of the languages in the Volga region
  • The development of literary languages in the Volga region
  • Dictionaries of the languages in the Volga region

Our central projects

Uralic Triangulation

URKO (Uralilainen kolmio, Uralic triangulation) is a consortium funded by the Academy of Finland through its Digital Humanities Programme (DIGIHUM). URKO studies human linguistic, genetic and cultural diversity in the Uralic language speaker area. We build online interfaces to three open access databases: i) typological data of Uralic languages, ii) spatial data on Uralic language distribution areas, and iii) Iron Age, Bronze Age and Stone Age archaeological artefacts in Finland. To stimulate use of this data, we develop computational approaches to conduct interdisciplinary studies of human (pre)history, and teaching modules introducing data-driven paradigm to a new generation of scholars.

The databases and methodological innovations with special emphasis on geospatial data and methodology will advance the field of digital humanities as a whole. Breakthroughs in the subject field, the interdisciplinary study of human history, will stem from the development of overarching computational statistical approaches for integrating linguistic, cultural and genetic data.

Members of the consortium: leader, Prof. Päivi Onkamo (Dept. of Biology), Prof. Sirkka Saarinen (Dept. of Finnish and Finno-Ugric Languages), Adjunct Prof. Harri Tolvanen (Dept. of Geography and Geology); coordinator PhD Outi Vesakoski.


The language departments of the University of Turku have a long tradition in compiling specialised digital linguistic corpora, and these corpora already have a dedicated base of domestic and international users who represent various special fields.

The Digilang project (2018–2021) focuses on the further development of these digital databases and corpora and aims to improve their usability, accessibility and visibility by collecting them under the brand new Digilang Portal, which will become a permanent and integral part of the research infrastructure of the School of Languages and Translation Studies (SLT). This, in turn, will help strengthen the brand of the University of Turku and the SLT as a developer of digital linguistic corpora.

The following corpora are currently under development in the Digilang project:

  • Linguistic Variation in the Province of Satakunta in the 21st Century
  • Regional and Social Variation in Finnish Prosody
  • Fennougristic corpora
  • The Corpora of Academic Finnish
  • Universal Parsebanks
  • The LOG Corpus
Mari Grammar

The aim of this international project is to compile a modern linguistic grammar for Mari. Material from the classical grammar, Marin kielioppi, which was published in 1985 by Alho Alhoniemi, is used as a basis for the project.

Development of the Mordvin Literary Languages

This project focuses on the development of Erzya and Moksha Mordvin literary languages in 1920–2008, which is studied through newspaper texts. Newspaper articles from different decades are compared, and the discovered changes in language use are construed in the context of sociolinguistics and language policy.

Finnish–Tatar Dictionary

The earlier Tatar–Finnish dictionary, which was published by the Research Unit in 2016, is used as a basis for the new Finnish–Tatar dictionary. The new dictionary is developed in co-operation with Finnish and Kazan Tatars.

Development of Lexicon in the Mari Literary Language

In this international project funded by the Kone Foundation, we study the origins and the development of specialised lexica in both Mari literary languages in the light of textbooks and newspapers published in the 1920s and 1930s.

Morphosyntactic Comparison of the Languages in the Volga Region

The Finno-Ugric and Turkic languages of the Volga region have had a very strong influence on each other in many ways. The aim of this project is to systematically compare these languages from the perspective of morphosyntactics and to create a comparative database for future research.