At the Department of Caucasus Studies

From the point of view of linguistics, the Caucasus is an especially interesting and challenging area because of its high linguistic diversity. Since antiquity it has been known as the “Mountain of tongues.” The surrounding areas (Europe, the Middle East) show far lower levels of diversity, whether measured in terms of number of languages, number of language families, or structural properties.

Caucasian languages, in particular the three indigenous language families East Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian), West Caucasian and South Caucasian (Kartvelian), are famous for a number of striking features. East Caucasian languages have impressive inventories of grammatical and spatial cases that easily outrival Latin, Russian, Finnish or Hungarian. Georgian allows for consonant clusters with up to eight consonants and has a unique, particularly beautiful script. West Caucasian languages are exceptional in having excessively rich consonant inventories with up to 60 different sounds in combination with extremely small vowel inventories.

Within our study and teaching of Caucasian languages, we focus cover the entire region. We also keep an eye on other languages spoken in the Caucasus and their manifold contact relationships with the indigenous languages. Language contact is important for researching human history because languages can preserve traces of contact that even thousands of years later can give us hints about migration histories. Core areas of our teaching and research are:

  • language documentation and grammatical description
  • electronic corpora and dictionaries for minority languages
  • language contact, language chance and language history of the Caucasus
  • (lexical) databases
  • sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology
  • courses of Caucasian languages


Exemplary courses (in English and German)

  • Languages of the Northern Caucasus
  • Languages of the Southern Caucasus
  • Introduction to the languages of the Caucasus
  • Linguistic anthropology
  • Language, culture and identity
  • Language policy
  • Georgian language courses

In addition, students can choose from further courses offered by Indo-European Studies, Southeastern European Studies, Slavic Studies, and other institutes of the Faculty of Arts.


Contact person


Ongoing research projects 

  • LexCauc – A lexical database for the languages of the Caucasus 
  • Language contact in the Caucasus

Current projects


Completed projects

  • Documenting Dargwa languages in Daghestan – Shiri and Sanzhi

Completed projects


 Recent publications

  • Forker, Diana. 2020. A grammar of Sanzhi Dargwa. Berlin: Language Science Press.
  • Oleg Belyaev. Aorist, resultative and perfect in Shiri Dargwa and beyond. In Diana Forker, Timur Maisak (eds.). The semantics of verbal categories in Nakh-Daghestanian languages. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
  • Forker, Diana & Felix Anker. 2019. Bridging constructions in Tsezic languages. In Valérie Guérin (ed.) Bridging constructions. Berlin: Language Science Press, 99–128.
  • Forker, Diana. 2019. Elevation as a category of grammar: Sanzhi Dargwa and beyond. Linguistic Typology 23(1), 59–106.
  • Forker, Diana. 2019. The impact of language contact on Hinuq: Phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. Language Typology and Universals 71, 29–62.
  • Forker, Diana. 2019. Sanzhi-Russian code switching and the Matrix Language Frame Model. International Journal of Bilingualism 23(6) 1448–1468.
  • Forker, Diana & Geoffrey Haig (eds.) 2018. Person and gender in discourse: An empirical cross-linguistic perspective. Linguistics 56(4).
  • Hannah Sarvasy & Diana Forker (eds.) 2018. Word hunters: Field linguists on fieldwork. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Forker, Diana & Timur Maisak (eds.) 2018. The semantics of verbal categories in Nakh-Daghestanian languages: Tense, aspect, evidentiality, mood/modality. Leiden: Brill.
  • Oleg Belyaev. Information structure conditions on the agreement controller in Dargwa. In Miriam Butt, Tracy Holloway King (eds.). Proceedings of the LFG17 Conference. Stanford: CSLI Publications, 2017.


 Electronic Resources