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France  Anglais  Last update : 24/04/2024     

Matthias URBAN

CNRS Researcher



Teams : DiLiS 

  Training and professional background
  Research interests
  Project management
  Awards and research grants
  Other international activities
  Main publications and conferences

My research revolves around human linguistic diversity: its manifestations and range, its genesis and history, and its cultural and non-linguistic underpinnings. These three foci combine in various ways, but I typically derive insights from comparative approaches.

The range of topics I study is diversified, yet unified in their concern for linguistic diversity. Accordingly, my research transcends several traditional subdisciplines of linguistics (linguistic typology, historical linguistics, language contact studies, philology, quantitative linguistics), and is characterized by methodological pluralism rather than being narrowly restricted to one particular research tradition. Commonly I also establish novel methods or approaches to the research questions I pose.

In terms of the types of data I work with, I likewise have found it most useful to explore the same or similar questions from different perspectives and on the basis of different types of data. Accordingly, I engage both in large-scale comparative work, often with a quantitative bent, based on standardized datasets as well as fine-grained analyses of phenomena in individual languages.



2023–2024: Senior Researcher (Heisenberg Program, DFG), University of Tübingen


2017–2023: PI Junior Research Group (Emmy Noether Program, DFG), University of Tübingen


2013–2017: Postdoctoral Researcher, Leiden University


2012–2013: Scientific Staff, Forschungszentrum Deutscher Sprachatlas, Philipps-Universität Marburg


2012:           PhD Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig /
                    Leiden University. Advisor: Bernard Comrie


2008:          MA Linguistics, University of Cologne. Advisor: Hans-Jürgen Sasse




General Linguistics


Andean Linguistics


Language Geography




Historical Linguistics




LANGUAGE REDUX: Language geography and the dynamics of linguistic and population prehistory, ERC Consolidator Grant




2021 – :       Fellow of the Young Academy of Europe (YAE)


2024–2029: ERC Consolidator Grant, ~ € 2.000.000


2023–2024: Heisenberg Program (DFG), ~ € 500.000


2013–2017: Emmy Noether Program (DFG), ~ € 1.300.000


2019–2021: Daimler und Benz Stiftung, € 40.000


2009–2011: Doctoral stipend, Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, € 43.200




2022:           Lexical Typology, University of Pavia (24 hrs, MA level)


2021/2022: Phonological and morphological analysis of Andean languages, University of                      Tübingen (28 hrs, advanced BA/MA level)


2020/2021:  Language and Environment, University of Tübingen (28 hrs, advanced BA/MA level)


2014:           Historical linguistics in the Colombian Andes, Leiden University (12 hrs, MA level)


2012/2013:  Bedeutungswandel (Semantic change), Marburg University (28 hrs, BA level)


2012/2013:  Historische Rekonstruktion (Historical reconstruction), Marburg University (28 hrs, MA                      level; co-taught with M. Cysouw)


2012/2013: Einführung in die Sprachtypologie (Introduction to linguistic typology), Marburg                     University (28 hrs, BA level)






2022– : Associate Editor, International Journal of American Linguistics


2021– : Associate Editor, Journal of Historical Linguistics




2023: Visiting Researcher (on invitation), University of Helsinki


2022: Summer Fellow (by competitive application), Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and            Collection, Harvard University


2022: Visiting Professor (on invitation), University of Pavia




2021: Mountain Linguistics. 54th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea.


2021: Fifth Meeting of the Network for the Study of Andean Languages (RELA)


2015: Historical relations among languages of the Americas (with K. Bellamy and S. Wichmann).           48th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea.




2018– : Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de América Latina (ALFAL)


2014– : Societas Linguistica Europeae (SLE)


2015– : Network for the Study of Andean Languages (RELA)


2008– : Gesellschaft für bedrohte Sprachen e.V. (GbS)




2021: Educast for the series Augenblicke für Forschung of the Daimler und Benz Foundation


2021: Translation of an origin myth of the Peruvian North Coast to the extinct Mochica language         for an animated clip and installation on Native American origin myths at the Denver Art           Museum, USA


2015: Las lenguas desaparecidas de la costa norte del Perú. Leaflet for distribution to the            interested public in Lambayeque, Peru


2010: Representative of the Department of Linguistics of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary           Anthropology at Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften in Leipzig




URBAN, M., 2023, "Linguistic stratigraphy: recovering traces of lost languages in the Central Andes", Cham, Springer, Springer Briefs in Linguistics (Link)  (Cover)


URBAN, M., 2019, "Lost languages of the Peruvian North Coast", Berlin, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut/Gebr. Mann, Estudios Indiana (Link)  (Cover)


URBAN, M., 2018, "Sprachlandschaften: Über die Rolle von Sprache in der Beziehung zwischen Mensch und Umwelt", Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann (Link)  (Cover)


URBAN, M., 2008, "Deskriptivität als Subtyp lexikalischer Motivation – Eine quantitative Studie in Synchronie und Diachronie. ", Cologne, Institut für Linguistik, Universität zu Köln., Working Paper Nr. 54 (New Series).

PhDs and master thesis

URBAN, M., 2012, "Analyzability and semantic associations in referring expressions: a study in comparative lexicology", Dissertation, Leiden University Center for Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology / Leiden University (Link)

Edited books

URBAN, M. (ed), 2024, "The Oxford Guide to the Languages of the Central Andes", Oxford, Oxford University Press (Link)  (Cover)

Chapters in books

URBAN, M., 2014, "Semantic change and semantic reconstruction", in The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics, BOWERN, C. & EVANS, B. (eds), Abingdon/New York, Routledge, pp. 374-392


URBAN, M., 2023, "Foggy connections, cloudy frontiers: On the (non-)adaptation of lexical structures. ", Frontiers in Psychology, 14, pp. 1115832


URBAN, M., 2023, "Agouti historiography: the problem of widespread lexical forms and deep linguistic history. ", Faits de Langues , 53:1, pp. 83-109


URBAN, M., AGUILAR PANCHI, E., LEE, S. & BRODETSKY, E., 2022, "CINWA (Database of Terminology for Cultivated Plants in Indigenous Languages of Northwestern South America): introducing a resource for research in ethnobiology, anthropology, historical linguistics, and interdisciplinary research on the Neolithic transition in South America.", Language Resources and Evaluation., 57, pp. 1787-1817


URBAN, M., 2021, "Mochica pronouns: their internal reconstruction and their significance for worldwide patterns of paradigmatic resemblances in pronominal shapes. ", International Journal of American Linguistics, 87:2, pp. 279-296


URBAN, M., 2021, "The foreign contribution to the lexicon of Northern Peruvian Quechua varieties: an exploratory study. ", Language Dynamics and Change, 11:1, pp. 77–129

Online Data

AGUILAR PANCHI, E., LEE, S., BRODETSKY, E. & URBAN, M., 2023, "Database of Cultivated plants and their names in the indigenous languages of South America. Version 0.9. ", Url

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