LIDIVOKA: Linguistic Diversity in the Volga-Kama Region

This project is funded by the Russian RFBR (20-512-14003 АНФ_а “Языковое разнообразие в Поволжском языковом союзе. Типология грамматических явлений и языковые контакты”) and the Austrian Science Fund FWF (Grant I 4636 “Sprachenvielfalt in der Wolga-Kama-Region).

The Russian Federation’s Volga-Kama Region, located some 700 kilometres east of Moscow around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers close to the city of Kazan, has been a meeting place of different cultures, religions, and languages since before the start of recorded history. Today, languages spoken in the region belong to three families: in addition to Russian (an Indo-European language distantly related to English and German) which became dominant in the region around the 16th century, a number of Uralic languages (related to Finnish and Hungarian) and Turkic languages (related to Turkish), whose presence in the region predates the historical eastwards expansion of the Russian state, are still spoken by several hundred thousand speakers each. Despite the large number of speakers and their long-standing presence in this region, many facets of these languages have to date not been adequately described.

The project at hand is an international collaboration by Austrian and Russian scholars to create an online database which will contain commented audio-visual materials of the languages of this region and information on the fascinating manner in which these languages have interacted with one another throughout history, but also in which respect the closely related languages of the region still differ. We aim not only to cover comparatively straight-forward influences such as loan words (i.e. individual words from one language adopted in another language), but also more subtle ways in which these languages have influenced one another in other ways, i.e. in grammar, for example how words can be arranged in certain types of sentences. This resource will be based not only on existing research, but also on our own field research carried out by our Moscow-based colleagues on a regular basis.

We aim to make our resources accessible not only to an international community of language scholars, but also to members of the speaker communities themselves. Our openly accessible database will be a tool for them to get a better picture of their language’s history and interactions with neighbouring languages. Furthermore, we will publish our results through scientific journals and a number of books concerning the specific research topics individual members of our team will be studying as well as reference and teaching materials for the individual languages under consideration.