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

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.

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.


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
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.

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.

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. 


REMODUS – The (Re-)Making of a Discipline: Digital Transformation and Internationalisation in and Beyond Uralic Studies is part of the KA220-HED Cooperation partnerships in higher education programme. It is being funded for three years (from 1 December 2021 to 30 September 2024) by the EU Erasmus+ Programme.

REMODUS is a network of ten European universities with a department or institute of Uralic (Finno-Ugric) Studies. Our field covers both European nation-state languages (Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian) and a broad spectrum of endangered (minority) languages spoken in diverse multilingual communities. Members of the network are: the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki (Finland), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the University of Hamburg (Germany), Uppsala University (Sweden), the University of Tartu (Estonia), the University of Vienna (coordinator, Austria), Eötvös Loránd University – Budapest and the University of Szeged (Hungary), and the University of Latvia (Latvia).

Our aim is to present our discipline, Uralic studies, as a model for digital transformation, cross- integration, and the internationalisation of a low-volume discipline covering a vast thematic range. In other words, a discipline where few institutions with highly specialised scholars are responsible for a broad range of European languages and cultures. In the process, we want to facilitate the exchange of knowledge within and beyond the traditional boundaries and limitations of academic infrastructures.

Our target groups are students/teachers from Uralic studies and students/teachers from similar disciplines. We organise winter schools and e-learning courses on topics that are not frequently found or taught elsewhere. Together, the universities involved offer a pool of expertise concerning Uralic Studies.

See also

A Skolt Saami Grammar for the Skolt Saami: A Descriptive Reference Grammar of the Skolt Saami

The project focuses on Skolt Saami, a severely endangered language spoken by 300–350 speakers. 

The main objectives are to 1) describe the grammatical structure of the present-day Skolt Saami, 2) provide an overview of its historical development, and 3) of the sociolinguistic variation. 

These objectives will be realized in the form of 1) a comprehensive descriptive reference grammar, accompanied by 2) in-depth case studies, 3) an edited volume of articles on the language, 4) two collections of oral texts, and 5) a doctoral thesis. All of the concrete objectives have a higher aim of supporting the Skolt Saami in their efforts to revitalize their language and culture. 

The research team consists of five experts on the Saami languages who have studied and taught Skolt Saami for a long time, and want to provide a better description of the language that will be easy for the Saami themselves to use. The project will incorporate Skolt Saami speakers and students as equal research partners.

The project is led by Jussi Ylikoski, Professor of Finno-Ugric Languages at the School of Languages and Translation.

Project funding: Academy of Finland 2022–2026

The project team consists of four specialists in Skolt Saami:
Ph.D., Adjunct Professor (Title of Docent) Eino Koponen 9/2022–8/2026
Ph.D., Adjunct Professor (Title of Docent) Taarna Valtonen 9/2022–8/2026
MA Markus Juutinen 1/2023–8/2026
MA Miika Lehtinen 7/2023–8/2026

The project started in September 2022. More information will be available soon on the project’s website.

URKO – Uralic Triangulation


The URKO (Uralic triangulation) consortium at the University of Turku is being funded by the Academy of Finland through the DIGIHUM programme from 2020 to 2022. URKO aims to conduct interdisciplinary studies involving human (pre)history in the Uralic language area and increase the understanding of the cultural and genetic diversity of this area.

We are building highly visible and user-oriented online interfaces to several currently emerging open-access databases, which include i) typological (structural) data of Uralic languages, ii) spatial data on language distribution, archaeological artefacts, genetic variation and the environmental history of the Uralic speaking area, and iii) archaeological Stone, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts in Finland, with links to the cultural environment register portal.

Furthermore, comprehensive teaching modules will be developed around these databases and interfaces, introducing a data-driven paradigm to a new generation of scholars.

The project is feasible due to our already established network of interdisciplinary researchers: PIs in the consortium are Professor Päivi Onkamo (Department of Biology, head of the consortium), Professor Sirkka Saarinen (Department of Finnish and Finno-Ugric Languages), Adjunct Professor Harri Tolvanen (Department of Geography and Geology); its coordinator is Outi Vesakoski, PhD.

The databases and methodological innovations will advance the field of digital humanities as a whole, while breakthroughs in the subject field, the interdisciplinary study of human history, will stem from the development of overreaching computational statistical approaches for integrating linguistic, cultural and genetic data, that is, implementing historical “triangulation”. URKO focuses on the Uralic speaking area, a field that is understudied compared to, for example, Indo-European speaking areas. High-quality databases and interfaces, and cutting-edge analyses based on them will help integrate Northeastern Europe, especially the Baltic Sea region, into global perspectives on human history. URKO is a part of one of the six thematic collaborations in research at the University of Turku, Cultural memory and societal change.

See also


Recent publications