The structure of the Uralic family tree, especially its upper branching structure, continues to be debated, and as a result there are competing proposals on the homeland, age, and spread history of the family. The project utilizes 21 verb pairs of Nichols et al. 2004, as well as their derivational types, the derivational morphemes, valence types, and cognacy information for the verb root and the derivational morphology, as a basis for phylogeny. The grammatical information, coded for fine breakdown, adds about 10 datapoints per wordlist item, the presence of both cognacy and morphosyntactic typological information, inclusion of synonyms, and the fact that the wordlist consists of verbs, has been shown in pilot studies on other families to yield excellent phylogenies plus information on diachronic linguistic geography, in part because the grammatical material can contribute shared innovations.
The project aims to produce (1) an improved family tree for Uralic, importantly with improved resolution of the higher branching structure; (2) a more firmly grounded proposal for a Proto-Uralic homeland and a geography and chronology of the Uralic spread; (3) much information on favored vs. rare semantic changes and relative diachronic stability of lexemes; (4) information on synchronic variability of particular lexemes, semantic classes, and grammatical types, with an anticipated finding that, apart from regular lexicosemantic and grammatical conditioning, variability can point to contact episodes and pattern borrowing.
For more information, please contact Riho Grünthal (University of Helsinki) and Johanna Nichols (University of California, Berkely).