Mountain views from the Caucasus drawn by J.A. Güldenstädt (1787-1791).1

I created this site to provide an overview of my research as a linguist specializing in East Caucasian languages, evidentiality and areal typology.

Most of my academic career has been based in Russia, until I quit my job at HSE University, Moscow in March 2022. After this I decided to switch careers. I continue some of my linguistic work as an independent researcher in my free time.

I condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine.

This website was created with RMarkdown in RStudio (RStudio Team 2018).

Current projects

Botlikh documentation

Botlikh is a small, unwritten language of the East Caucasian language family (Andic branch). I started working on this language by chance in 2017, when I was asked to edit and supplement a draft grammar sketch by the renowned Caucasiologist Mikhail Alexeyev. At some point this text will appear as a chapter in a new handbook on Caucasian languages. For now the latest draft version is available here.

In 2019 I teamed up with Chiara Naccarato to investigate Botlikh’s unique agreement system (see our talks on this topic: 1, 2, 3 and a general overview handout). We are also in the process of translating and annotating Botlikh texts recorded by our predecessors, and plan to add new material to the corpus. Aigul Zakirova recorded some new material in 2021, and Sara Zadykian is currently glossing texts and editing translations. Some general background on the language and our work (along with some alluring pictures) is given in these slides.

I also manage an Instagram account about the Botlikh language, and I published some texts from the corpus in Botlikh and Russian here.

Andi documentation (Zilo dialect)

The Andi language is a neighbor of Botlikh. I am one of several people who have worked on various aspects of Andi grammar by studying the dialect of the village Zilo since 2016. A grammar sketch is currently in preparation, and we are working on transcribing and annotating a corpus of texts that were recorded during field trips.

Variation in unwritten languages

Variation among speakers is a known problem for any linguist doing fieldwork, whether their purpose is language documentation or investigation of a theoretical problem.

During fieldwork in the village Zilo in 2019, George Moroz conducted an experiment to measure the variation rate of several features known to be variable in the local dialect of Andi. We then sent out a survey to researchers of East Caucasian languages about their preferences and habits for conducting fieldwork, to estimate the probability that an average researcher would catch the rate of variation measured. Some results are discussed here and here.

Typological Atlas of Daghestan

The project Typological Atlas of Daghestan (TALD) is a tool to visualize information about linguistic structures characteristic of Dagestan. The Atlas consists of datasets with information about particular features. Each year, several students of the School of Linguistics at HSE University Moscow (as well as interns from other universities) collect new datasets for the Atlas as part of a workshop. I used to coordinate this workshop together with Chiara Naccarato, and was involved in designing the current structure, types of visualization, and workflow of the Atlas. Click here if you are interested in becoming a contributor of the Atlas.

Past projects

Evidentiality as part of tense-aspect in East Caucasian languages

My PhD project dealt with the grammaticalization and areal distribution of evidentiality as part of the tense-aspect system in East Caucasian languages. An overview of my findings is in this paper. You can find more information about my dissertation in the dedicated repository.

Loanwords in Dagestan

The Daghestanian Loans project investigates how patterns of multilingualism in Dagestan are reflected in lexical borrowings at the village level. I worked on this project with Michael Daniel, Ilya Chechuro and Nina Dobrushina from 2017–2019, collecting and annotating lexical data. The results are a database, several talks and posters, and two papers.

About my name

My given name is Samira, but my first name on my passport is Jannigje Helena. This has to do with a silly Dutch custom of giving children multiple Christian names as their official first name, and then calling them something else in daily life. (Read more about this here.) Names for daily use will often be derived from a first name, or at least start with the same letter, but not always.

Contrary to a persistent myth, Samira is not my Caucasiologist pseudonym, but one of the names given to me by my parents. I always go by this name unless I am forced to do otherwise. So please call me Samira and consider Jannigje Helena my tax-form filling alter ego.

A goat in Zilo, Dagestan. July 2019.


RStudio Team. 2018. RStudio: Integrated Development Environment for r. Boston, MA: RStudio, Inc.

  1. J.A. Güldenstädt’s Reisen durch Russland und im Caucasischen Gebürge is available online at Russia’s State Public Historical Library, accessed on 10.01.2020.↩︎