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URPP Language and Space

Frontiers of early human expansion in Asia: linguistic and genetic perspectives on Ainu, Japan and the North Pacific Rim


13-14 March 2016, Irchel Campus, University of Zurich

Organizers: Hiromi Matsumae, Kentaro Shimizu, Balthasar Bickel

Workshop mission

Over the past year, a series of genetic studies has elucidated the earliest human settlement of the Americas out of Asia with ever increasing resolution. At the same time, linguistic research has detected several signals that these processes have left in the distribution of linguistic structures. However, progress in both areas as well as in understanding the relationship between linguistic and genetic signals is hampered by a lack of attention to the core region through which humans migrated out of Asia: the north Pacific coast of Eurasia. This workshop brings together geneticists and linguists who study the population history of this region and/or the larger background of the Trans-Pacific macro-area on the one hand, and the (dis-)continuities of the region in mainland Eurasia or across Bering Strait on the other hand.

Registration form

List of speakers & their expertise:

Invited Speakers (Genetics & Linguistics)

  • Brigitte Pakendorf (Senior Researcher, at CNRS research unit Dynamique du Langage, France): comparative population linguistics and genetics of Siberia

Invited Speakers (Linguistics)

  • Johanna Nichols (Professor, Linguistics at UC Berkeley, U.S.): language spreads, high-diversity language areas, human and linguistic settlement of the Americas
  • Juha Janhunen (Professor in East Asian Studies, Univ of Helsinki, Finland): the linguistic history and prehistory of Eurasia
  • Ekaterina Gruzdeva (Lecturer, Department of General Linguistics, University of Helsinki, Finland): Nivkh linguistics and sociology
  • Anna Bugaeva (Associate Professor, National Institute for Japanese Language & Linguistics, Japan): Ainu linguistics
  • Anna Berge (Associate Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, U.S.): Eskimo-Aleut linguistics

Invited Speakers (Genetics)

  • Kae Koganebuchi (PhD student, Kitasato University, from Prof. Hiroki Oota group): Human population history in East Asia
  • Laurent Excoffier (Professor, University of Bern): Population genetics (Sunday ONLY)

Internal Speakers

  • Hiromi Matsumae (Postdoc, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, URPP Evolution in Action): Human population history
  • Kentaro Shimizu, (Professor, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, URPP Evolution in Action): Evolutionary and Ecological Genomics
  • Balthasar Bickel, (Professor Department of Comparative Linguistics, URPP Evolution in Action & URPP Language and Space): Comparative Linguistics
  • Dagmar Jung (Senior Researcher at University of Zurich): Athabaskan/Na-Dene language
  • Gabriel  Aguirre  Fernández  (Postdoc,  Paleontological  Institute  and  Museum):  Paleontology, evolution of music instruments


  • Marcelo Sánchez (Professor Paleontological Institute and Museum): Paleontology, evolution of music instruments)


Day 1 (March 13, Sunday)


Kentaro Shimizu (Welcome, introduction to URPP and workshop)


Brigitte Pakendorf (“Genetic and linguistic perspectives on the prehistory of Siberia” including short break)


Hiromi Matsumae (Correlations in population structure of music, genes, and languages)


Kae Koganebuchi (“The allele frequency distributions of alcohol-metabolism related genes and peopling history in the Japanese archipelago”)


lunch break


Laurent Excoffier (TBA)


Johanna Nichols (“The North Pacific Rim gateway: North Asian linguistic population structure and the settlement of the Americas”)




Balthasar Bickel (statistical signals of the Trans-Pacific migrations in language)

Day 2 (March 14, Monday)


Anna Bugaeva ("Ainu, an Atypical Language of Northeast Asia")


Ekaterina Gruzdeva ("An areal and typological profile of Nivkh (Paleosiberian)")




Juha Janhunen ("Linguistic expansions in Northeast Asia")


lunch break


Anne Berge (“Linguistic Signals of Prehistoric Cultural Contact in Aleut (Unangam Tunuu)")


Dagmar Jung (“Na-Dene relations: around Beringia”)


Gabriel Aguirre Fernández (“Evolutionary analysis of panpipes to test for pre-Columbian contact across the Pacific”)