How old is the Uralic language family? Where was the Uralic proto-language originally spoken? The hypothesis of the age of the family vary between 6000 and 4000 years, and the suggestions for the place-of-origin range from the shores of Volga river in the west to the eastern side of the Ural mountains in the east.
Why and how did the family spread and diverge into its current (and extinct) entities? We study how the climate, ecology and geography of Northwestern Eurasian Taiga have shaped the history of the language family.
Speakers of Uralic languages have had contacts with speakers of non-Uralic languages throughout their history. How have these contacts affected the history of Uralic languages and its speakers? Are linguistic contacts revealed by historical linguistics connected with contacts detectable from genetic and cultural material? With a team of geneticists and archaeologists we aim at triangulation of evidence from linguistics, archaeology and genetics in the ecological context of the language speakers to shed light to the holistic history of Uralic speaker area. This is done by a larger group of researchers (UraHoli team).
Similarly as genetics can be studied with mitochondrial and autosomal data, linguistic history can be studied with lexicon (words), typology (grammatical features) and phonemes (sounds). We have collected lexical data (cognate data) which has recently been updated to include also information of potential loan word sources. We have also initiated collection of typological data. The data is analysed especially with Bayesian models of phylogenetics and phylogeography. The basics for multidisciplinary comparisons comes from the dated phylogeny of the Uralic family and from newly compiled Geographical Database of Uralic Languages, i.e. speaker areas of Uralic languages.