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, especially Tatar and Chuvash. We are working in close collaboration with scholars of the Mari, Mordovia and Udmurt State Universities.

More information on the research at the Research Unit of Volgaic Languages


The Research Unit for Volgaic Languages participates in the Digilang project, which aims to increase the visibility and accessibility of various digital language materials that have been created in the School of Languages and Translation studies. These materials will be collected under one user interface portal to facilitate linguistic searches. The project is funded by the University of Turku.

In the Finno-Ugric part of the project (2019–2021), the form of various language corpuses will be unified and new grammatical annotations will be added to part of the materials. 

The leader of the project is Docent Tommi Kurki, and the work that focuses on Volgaic languages is organised by Jack Rueter

A modern grammar of Mari

The aim of the project is to produce a modern grammar of Mari that takes into account recent research on Mari as well as the results of the latest typological studies. The description of Mari in the new grammar, which will be written in English, is designed to be accessible to all linguists and not just those who specialise in Finno-Ugric languages. 

The classic grammar Marin kielioppi, which was written by Professor Emeritus Alho Alhoniemi and published in 1985 (German version in 1993), serves as the basis for the work on the new grammar. The material of the old grammar will be reviewed, supplemented and modified to conform to the style of presentation used in modern language descriptions. A chapter on the syntax of Mari will also be added to the grammar. 

PhD student Silja-Maija Spets is preparing the new grammar. The other participants from Turku include Sirkka Saarinen and Arto Moisio. The native Mari linguists who are involved in the project are Docent Oleg Sergeyev (Meadow Mari) and Associate Professor Nadezhda Krasnova (Hill Mari), both from Yoshkar-Ola. 

The development of Mordvin literary languages in light of newspaper texts

The development of Erzya and Moksha literary languages was studied on the basis of newspaper texts published between 1920 and 2008. The basic material consisted of microfilmed annual volumes of Mordvin newspapers. A collection of modern texts from the 2000s was used for comparison. 

The characteristics of the language from different periods was described. While the study focused on linguistic phenomena, the subject matter of the texts as well as the sociolinguistic and political contexts of each period were also examined. 

The participants of this project were Jorma Luutonen (leader), Sirkka Saarinen and the Mordvin scholars Professor Mikhail Mosin and Docent Valentina Shchankina from Saransk.

The Finnish–Tatar dictionary

In 2016, the Research Unit for Volgaic Languages published a Tatar–Finnish dictionary that included not only a Kazan Tatar vocabulary but also Finnish Tatar words. The authors were Arto Moisio and Okan Daher, a representative of the Finnish Tatars. Immediately after the project was completed, preparations for the compilation of a Finnish–Tatar dictionary were initiated.

The basic material for the Finnish–Tatar dictionary is derived from the Tatar–Finnish dictionary. The aforementioned dictionary, which includes around 11,000 Tatar words, has been rearranged so that the Finnish words are presented first. The editing of the new dictionary on the basis of these materials still necessitates a great deal of edits and additions.

The editor of the dictionary is Arto Moisio. Native Kazan Tatar speakers Leyla Gataullina and Mansur Saykhunov provided their help for the project. The project’s Finnish Tatar specialist is Okan Daher. In 2021, Saykhunov reworked a software application of the material for further processing.

The development of the Mari lexicon in the 1920s and 1930s

After the Russian Communist Revolution of 1917, the work to develop the country’s minority languages into a versatile communication tool for the use of a new society was strongly encouraged. In the case of Mari literary languages, a large number of new words based on the language’s own resources were created for various disciplines in the 1920s and 1930s.

After the political situation changed to favour Russian in the late 1930s, most of the neologisms coined in the 1920s and 1930s were rejected and replaced with Russian loan words.  

The project, which was funded by the Kone Foundation, investigated the changes that occurred in the vocabulary of different fields of knowledge using the textbooks and popular education booklets from the era as research material. The participants of the project included Arto Moisio and native Mari linguists Docent Oleg Sergeyev and Associate Professor Nadezhda Krasnova. The leader of the project was Jorma Luutonen. The monograph Marin kirjakielten termistön kehitys 1920- ja 1930-luvuilla. Elollista luontoa tutkivat tieteet (445 pp.) was published in 2020.

The Komi–Finnish dictionary

The Komi–Finnish dictionary is being compiled by Arto Moisio on the basis of Komi–Russian dictionaries. The size of the dictionary is around 24,000 entries.

PhD Arja Hamari (University of Helsinki) will take part in the project as an advisor and an expert of Komi. Currently, the project is searching for a volunteer to serve as a native Komi specialist. 

The Komi dictionary will become a new volume in the series of bilingual dictionaries published by the Research Unit. The previous dictionaries in the series have focused on Mari, Erzya, Moksha, Udmurt, Chuvash and Tatar.

Other projects

An updated edition of the Mari–Finnish dictionary

When Arto Moisio published the first Mari–Finnish dictionary in 1992, the book contained a significant number of Russian loan words from the Soviet era. However, the Mari language has changed since then: a considerable number of lexemes created using the language’s own means of word formation have been introduced to the language. 

The edition of the Finnish–Mari dictionary that was published in 1995 already included new Mari vocabulary. These new words as well as additional words from newer Mari texts have now been collected for inclusion in the latest edition of the Mari-Finnish dictionary. However, the dictionary still requires a great deal of work before it is complete. 

The new Mari–Finnish dictionary will better reflect the current situation of the Mari language.

The biography of Valerian Mikhailovich Vasilyev

Valerian Mikhailovich Vasilyev (1883–1961) was an important figure in Mari linguistics and cultural life. He began his work already in the early decades of the twentieth century, before the formation of the Soviet Union. 

Vasilyev was not only a linguist, a producer of neologisms and a translator, but also a developer of Mari ethnology, folkloristics, musicology and pedagogy.

Vasilyev was the only member of the Mari intelligentsia who managed to avoid death during Stalin’s purges in the 1930s. 

Senior Researcher Arto Moisio wrote a biography of Valerian Mikhailovich Vasilyev, published online: http://www.macastren.fi/suomennettua/Moisio_Vasiljev.pdf.


The following summary lists the dictionaries and monographs published by the personnel of the Research Unit and the other participants in the Research Unit’s projects. More detailed information on these publications as well as on individual scientific articles can be found in the publication lists of each personnel member. 

Bilingual dictionaries

Marilais-suomalainen sanakirja, Arto Moisio. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1992.

Suomalais-marilainen sanakirja, Arto Moisio, Ivan Galkin & Valentin Vasiljev. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1995.

Ersäläis-suomalainen sanakirja, Jaana Niemi & Mihail Mosin. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1995.

Suomalais-ersäläinen sanakirja, Alho Alhoniemi, Nina Agafonova & Mihail Mosin. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1999.  

Mokšalais-suomalainen sanakirja, Eeva Herrala & Aleksandr Feoktistov. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1998. 

Udmurttilais-suomalainen sanakirja, Sergej Maksimov, Vadim Danilov & Sirkka Saarinen. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 2008. 

Suomalais-udmurttilainen sanakirja, Sergei Maksimov, Sirkka Saarinen, Vadim Danilov & Ekaterina Seliverstova. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2013.

Tšuvassilais-suomalainen sanakirja, Arto Moisio, Eduard Fomin & Jorma Luutonen. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 2007. 

Tataarilais-suomalainen sanakirja, Arto Moisio & Okan Daher. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2017.

Dialect dictionary

Tscheremissisches Wörterbuch, eds. Arto Moisio & Sirkka Saarinen. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2008.

Reverse dictionaries

Reverse Dictionary of Komi, Enye Lav & Jorma Luutonen. Société Finno-Ougrienne, 2012. 

Reverse Dictionary of Chuvash, Pavel Zheltov, Eduard Fomin & Jorma Luutonen. Société Finno-Ougrienne, 2009.  

Reverse Dictionary of Mordvin, Jorma Luutonen, Mikhail Mosin & Valentina Shchankina. Société Finno-Ougrienne, 2004.

Reverse Dictionary of Mari (Cheremis), Jorma Luutonen, Sirkka Saarinen, Arto Moisio, Oleg Sergeyev & Lidiya Matrosova. Société Finno-Ougrienne, 2002.

Electronic word lists

Electronic word lists: Komi, Chuvash and Tatar, Jorma Luutonen et al. Finno-Ugrian Society, 2016.

Electronic word lists: Mari, Mordvin and Udmurt, Jorma Luutonen et al. Finno-Ugrian Society,  2007.

Monographs: dialects, folklore

Mokšamordvan murteet, Aleksandr Feoktistov & Sirkka Saarinen. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2005.

Udmurtin murteet, Valentin Kel'makov & Sirkka Saarinen. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1994.

Timofej Jevsevjevs Folklore-Sammlungen aus dem Tscheremissischen IV. Lieder, toim. Sirkka Saarinen. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 1994.

Monographs: grammar, lexicon

Marin kirjakielten termistön kehitys 1920- ja 1930-luvulla: Elollista luontoa tutkivat tieteet. Arto Moisio, Oleg Sergejev, Nadežda Krasnova and Jorma Luutonen. Société Finno-Ougrienne, 2020.

Chuvash Syntactic Nominalizers: On *-ki and Its Counterparts in Ural-Altaic LanguagesJorma Luutonen. Harrassowitz, 2011.

Marin kielen sanaston kehitys 1900-luvulla, Ivan Ivanov & Arto Moisio. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1998.  

The Variation of Morpheme Order in Mari Declension, Jorma Luutonen. Société Finno-Ougrienne, 1997.

Grammatik des Tscheremissischen (Mari). Mit Texten und Glossar, Alho Alhoniemi. Buske, 1993.

Article collections

Systeemi ja poikkeama. Juhlakirja Alho Alhoniemen 60-vuotispäiväksi 14.5.1993, eds. Sirkka Saarinen, Jorma Luutonen & Eeva Herrala. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1993.

Volgalaiskielet muutoksessa. Volgalaiskielten symposiumi Turussa 1.–2.9.1993, eds. Arto Moisio & Jaana Magnusson. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 1994.

Volgan alueen kielikontaktit. Jazykovye kontakty Povolzhja. Symposiumi Turussa 16.–18.8.2001, ed. Jorma Luutonen. Department of Finnish and General Linguistics of the University of Turku, 2002.

Juuret marin murteissa, latvus yltää Uraliin. Juhlakirja Sirkka Saarisen 60-vuotispäiväksi 21.12.2014, eds. Nobufumi Inaba, Jorma Luutonen, Arja Hamari & Elina Ahola. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, 2014.