Home / Dr. Matthias Urban


Matthias Urban received undergraduate and graduate training in linguistics at the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. His postdoctoral work focused on the historical linguistics of the Central Andes and sought to investigate the use of different types linguistic information –the areal distribution of linguistic features, place and personal names, substrate effects, other contact phenomena including lexical and grammatical borrowing, and the spread of language families–as windows to the prehistory of this culture area. He continues to pursue this approach, which also emphasizes the need to interpret the linguistic record against an interdisciplinary background, further as principal investigator of the Junior Research Group “The languages of the Central Andes”, funded by the German Research Foundation’s Emmy Noether Programme.

2017 -Principal Investigator, Emmy Noether Junior Research Group “The Language Dynamics of the Ancient Central Andes, University of Tübingen
2016 - 2017Senior Researcher, Leiden University
2013 - 2016Postdoctoral Researcher, Leiden University
2012 - 2013Member of Scientific Staff, Forschungszentrum Deutscher Sprachatlas, University of Marburg
2009 - 2011Doctoral stipend holder, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Dept. of Linguistics, Leipzig
2012Dr., Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology/Leiden University. Thesis advisor: Bernard Comrie, Promotor: Maarten P.G.M. Mous
2008M.A. General Linguistics, University of Cologne. Thesis advisor: Hans-Jürgen Sasse
2003 - 2008M.A. Studies (General Linguistics, Philosophy, Comparative Literature) at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne
Lost languages of the Peruvian North Coast. Berlin: Iberoamerikanisches Institut.
Sprachlandschaften. Über die Rolle von Sprache in der Beziehung zwischen Mensch und Umwelt. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.
Matthias Urban and Rita Eloranta (eds.) Hans Heinrich Brüning, Diccionario Etnográfico de la Costa y Sierra Norte del Perú. Lambayeque: Fondo Editorial de la Facultad de Ciencias Historicas, Sociales y Educativas (FACHSE), Universidad Nacional Pedro Ruiz Gallo.
Analyzability and semantic associations in referring expressions: a study in comparative lexicology. Dissertation, Leiden University & Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
To appear
Pache, Matthias, and Matthias Urban. To appear. Linguistic evidence as a window on the past: The case of Cariban. In: Beatrix Hoffmann-Ihde and Karoline Noack (eds.): Entanglements of men and things: Amerindian societies and anthropological museums. Düren: Shaker.
Urban, Matthias, and Chiara Barbieri. To appear. North and South in the ancient Central Andes: contextualizing the archaeological record with evidence from linguistics and molecular anthropology. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.
Mochica pronouns: their internal reconstruction and their significance for worldwide patterns of paradigmatic resemblances in pronominal shapes. International Journal of American Linguistics.
Small and extinct languages of Northern Peru. In: Matthias Urban (ed): The Oxford Guide to the Languages of the Central Andes. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Language ecologies and dynamics in the ancient Central Andes. In: Matthias Urban (ed): The Oxford Guide to the Languages of the Central Andes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
What color are your hearts? ‘Liver’ and ‘lungs’ in typological and areal perspective. Linguistic Typology.
The impact of language contact on the Quechua varieties of Northern Peru: exploring the lexical evidence. Language Dynamics and Change
The prehistoric extension of the Hibito-Cholón languages: triangulating toponymy, substrate lexis, and areal typology Linguistic Discovery.
Mountain linguistics. Language and Linguistics Compass 2020: e12393.
The representation of the velar nasal in colonial grammars and other pre-modern sources on the languages of the Central Andean region. In: Astrid Alexander-Bakkerus, Rebeca Fernández Rodríguez, Liesbeth Zack, and Otto Zwartjes (eds.): From Mesoamerica to Patagonia: Colonial studies of Latin American languages. Leiden/Boston: Brill.
Language contact and the linguistic prehistory of the Central Andes. Academic Journal of Modern Philology 8: 205-213.
Matthias Urban, Hugo Reyes-Centeno, Kate Bellamy, and Matthias Pache. The areal typology of western Middle and South America: Towards a comprehensive view. Linguistics 52 (6): 1403-1463.
Notes on Yurumanguí grammar and lexicon. LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas 19, 1-25.
Spotlights on the notion of lexical motivation across languages in the western linguistic tradition, from the 16th century to the present. Historiographia Linguistica 46 (1/2): 47-84.
Is there a Central Andean linguistic area? A view from the “minor” languages. Journal of Language Contact 12 (2): 271-304.
Towards a semantically organized meaning list for cognate searches. Academic Journal of Modern Philology 7: 141-158.
Maritime loanwords in languages of Pacific Meso- and Southamerica? An explorative study. In: Katerina Harvati, Gerhard Jäger, and Hugo Reyes-Centeno (eds.): New perspectives on the peopling of the Americas, 27-60. Tübingen: Kerns
A new approach to the reconstitution of the pronunciation of Timote-Cuicas (Venezuelan Andes). Cadernos de Etnolingüística 6 (1): 31-50.
Quechua terminology for internal organs of the body: diachronic, typological, and contact perspectives. Studies in Language 42 (3): 505-528.
The lexical legacy of substrate languages: a test case from the Southern Ecuadorian highlands. Transactions of the Philological Society 116 (3): 435-459.
¿Multilingüismo prehispánico en la costa y sierra norte del Perú? Una exploración de las evidencias. Umbral 3(3): 67-88.
Observaciones etimológicas acerca del nombre de la ciudad antigua de Chan Chan y sus estructuras arquitectónicas. Letras 88: 126-148.
Matthias Urban and Rita Eloranta. Ñaimlap, the birds, and the sea: a view at the legend through the lens of the Mochica language. Names 65 (3): 154-166.
Motivation by formally analyzable terms in a typological perspective. An assessment of the variation and steps towards explanation. In: Päivi Juvonen and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (eds.): The lexical typology of semantic shifts, 555-575. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
El vocabulario Sechurano de Richard Spruce. Lexis 39 (2): 395-413.
Notas sobre el sistema de numeración de las lenguas Timote-Cuicas. Boletín Antropológico 33: 53-69.

Contact Information

  • Position Title: Principal Investigator Emmy Noether Junior Research Group
  • Location: Rümelinstr. 23, Room 4.24
  • Telephone number: +49-7071-29-74391
  • E-mail address: matthias.urban@uni-tuebingen.de