Researcher of the Month: Sampsa Holopainen

Sampsa Holopainen
Photo: Laura Horváth

Kielipankki – The Language Bank of Finland is a service for researchers using language resources. Sampsa Holopainen tells us about his research on the history of the Uralic languages.

Who are you?

My name is Sampsa Holopainen, and I am a researcher of the history of the Uralic languages. I am currently working as a recipient of an APART-GSK Fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the Finno-Ugrian department of the University of Vienna. I made my doctoral studies in the University of Helsinki, my PhD defence was in December 2019.

What is your research topic?

My current research topic is the history of Hungarian or more widely the history of the Ugric languages (including also Khanty and mansi): historical phonology, etymology and loanword research. I am investigating these topics in my current project (2021–2023) Hungarian historical phonology reexamined (with special focus on Ugric vocabulary and Iranian loanwords). In my earlier work I have done research on the etymology of the other Uralic languages too, especially on the Indo-Iranian and other Indo-European lexical influence on the various Uralic languages. In 2019–2021, I worked with Finnic etymology in particular in the project Suomen vanhimman sanaston etymologinen verkkosanakirja (The digital etymological dictionary of the oldest vocabulary of Finnish) in the University of Helsinki. This project is led by Dr. Santeri Junttila and funded by the Kone Foundation.

How is your research related to Kielipankki?

As a part of my current project I am developing an etymological database of the shared vocabulary of Hungarian, Khanty and Mansi (the vocabulary traditionally reconstructed into the Ugric proto-language) and of the early Iranian loanwords of Hungarian; the database is built into the Sanat-wiki that is maintained by Kielipankki. These vocabulary layers are investigated critically and the results are presented in word-articles, and the database will also later include tables illustrating the developments of historical phonology. The database forms only part of my current research work, but it gives a good opportunity to publish research results and observations quickly and openly.

My database is based on a much larger etymological database of the Finnic languages, that has been developed in Santeri Junttila’s project Suomen vanhimman sanaston etymologinen verkkosanakirja (The digital etymological dictionary of the oldest vocabulary of Finnish). Also docent Petri Kallio, MA Juha Kuokkala and MA Juho Pystynen have worked in this project. This project is still active but I am not involved in it any more as a full-time researcher. I think that this project is especially significant, as it has produced the excellent Wiki-database of etymology that has served as the basis of further projects on etymology, such as my own current project in the University of Vienna. The Wiki-database gives good chances to update the research results and forms a good platform for researchers to communicate.


Holopainen, Sampsa 2022: Uralilaisen lingvistisen paleontologian ongelmia – mitä sanasto voi kertoa kulttuurista? – Kaheinen, Kaisla & Leisiö, Larisa & Erkkilä, Riku & Qiu, Toivo E.H. (toim.), Hämeenmaalta Jamalille: kirja Tapani Salmiselle 07.04.2022. Helsinki: Helsingin yliopiston kirjasto. 101–114. DOI: 10.31885/9789515180858.9

Holopainen, Sampsa 2021: On the question of substitution of palatovelars in Indo-European loanwords into Uralic. – Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja 98. 197–233. DOI: 10.33340/susa.95365

Junttila, Santeri & Holopainen, Sampsa & Pystynen, Juho 2020: Digital Etymological Dictionary of the Oldest Vocabulary of Finnish. – Rasprave 46, 2. 733–747. DOI: 10.31724/rihjj.46.2.15

More information


The FIN-CLARIN consortium consists of a group of Finnish universities along with CSC – IT Center for Science and the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus). FIN-CLARIN helps the researchers in Finland to use, to refine, to preserve and to share their language resources. The Language Bank of Finland is the collection of services that provides the language materials and tools for the research community.

All previously published Language Bank researcher interviews are stored in the Researcher of the Month archive. This article is also published on the website of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Helsinki.