Olesya Khanina

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Linguistics
Research Fellow, Russian Academy of Sciences

Research project

Multilingualism in Siberia


This project is devoted to multilingualism in Siberia, and takes two approaches: first, it will collect descriptions of all oral multilingual practices attested today in the area, and second, it will reconstruct multilingual practices of the past based on linguistic, anthropological, and historical data. The aim of the initiative is to create a database of all areas of multilingualism and to visualize these data with the help of maps and an interactive web resource.


There are some descriptions of individual multilingual areas of Siberia, but there is no resource that would integrate all current knowledge on the multilingual locations, either in the past or in present. Data on the actual patterns of language choice in the multilingual settings are even more scattered: with whom and in what situations which language is/was used. This project aims to collect all the existing data on multilingualism in Siberia and make the resource available to researchers and to a wider public.


First, a database of all modern multilingual areas of Siberia will be created. For every location with more than two indigenous languages of Siberia spoken, information on actual multilingual practices will be collected. Second, the data points of modern multilingualism will be complemented by historical information. The modern and historical data will be received from specialists working on these languages and ethnic groups and extracted from published sources. Later, for selected locations, historic reconstructions can be added. Finally, the best visualization for the data will be searched for. I believe that visualization of the database on multilingualism is not just a nice addition to the data itself, but a true necessity for readability and usability of the data. Visual representation of the data is complicated by its multidimensionality: geographical, temporal, and structural dimensions should be shown on maps, and the details of the visualization concept will be developed in the course of the project.


The proposed project aims to create a resource for an underdescribed area informed by the latest sociolinguistic research. As such, it can then be used for a variety of research purposes. On the local level, specialists on Siberia could use the resource as a starting point of further investigation into languages, cultures, and history of the area. Similar phenomena in different parts of Siberia will become visible and this will open paths for comparative studies that are impossible now. At the same time, the web-resource visually representing the existing multilingual practices of Siberia could easily be used by a wider audience. On the global level, the resource could help answer the questions what is shared by all multilingual areas of the world and what is specific to some areas only.


Languages and linguistic communities of Siberia are still underrepresented in modern linguistics, and I hope to fill the gap with the proposed resource on multilingualism.




Olesya Khanina is Research Fellow at the Department of Typology and Areal Studies, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. She holds a Kandidat Nauk in Philology/Linguistics from the Moscow State University.

Olesya Khanina specializes in Uralic languages, languages of Siberia, language documentation, and linguistic typology. She is interested in corpus-based approach to typology and language documentation. Currently, she is preparing a corpus-based pan-dialectal grammar of Enets (Uralic, Samoyedic) and finalizing an electronic corpus of this language; she also works on a sound dictionary of Enets.


Selected publications


'Documenting a language with phonemic and phonetic variation: the case of Enets', Language documentation and conservation. [forthcoming]


'A case-study in historical sociolinguistics beyond Europe: reconstructing patterns of multilingualism in a linguistic community in Siberia', with M. Meyerhoff, Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics, vol. 4, no. 2, 2018, pp. 221-251.


'Enets in space and time: a case study in linguistic geography', with Y. Koryakov & A. Shluinsky, Finnisch-Ugrische Mitteilungen, vol. 42, 2018, pp. 1-28.


'A rare type of benefactive construction: evidence from Enets', with A. Shluinsky, Linguistics, vol. 52, no.6, 2014, pp. 1391-1431.


'How universal is wanting?', Studies in Language, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 818-865.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Communication
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline History