Eugene Helimski

Eugene Helimski
Евге́ний Арно́льдович Хели́мский
Born15 March 1950
Died25 December 2007(2007-12-25) (aged 57)

Eugene Arnoľdovič Helimski (sometimes also spelled Eugene Khelimski, Russian: Евге́ний Арно́льдович Хели́мский; 15 March 1950 in Odessa, USSR – 25 December 2007 in Hamburg, Germany) was a Soviet and Russian linguist (in the latter part of his life working in Germany). He was a Doctor of Philosophy (1988) and Professor.

Helimski researched Samoyedic and Finno-Ugric languages, problems of Uralic and Nostratic linguistic affinity, language contact, the theory of genetic classification of languages, and the cultural history of Northern Eurasia and of shamanism. He became one of the world's leading specialists in Samoyedic languages.


Helimski graduated from the Department of Structural and Applied Linguistics of Moscow State University (1972); completed a Dissertation on "Ancient Ugro-Samoyedic Linguistic Ties" (Tartu, 1979); completed the Doctoral Dissertation on "Historical and Descriptive Dialectology of the Samoyedic Languages" (Tartu, 1988); worked at the Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences (1978—1997); lectured at the RSUH (1992—1998), University of Budapest (1994—1995) and other European universities. From 1998 onward, he was Professor of Hamburg University and Director of the Institute of Finno-Ugrian and Uralic Studies in Hamburg.

Scientific contributions

Helimski was a participant and organizer of numerous linguistic expeditions to Siberia and to the Taimyr Peninsula; field studies of all Samoyedic languages, one of the authors of the well-known Studies on the Selkup Language, which was based on field studies and has substantially broadened the linguistic understanding of Samoyedic. He exposed a number of regularities in the historical phonetics of Hungarian, and substantiated the existence of grammatical and lexical Ugro-Samoyedic parallels. He gathered all accessible data on Mator, the extinct South-Samoyedic language, and published its dictionary and grammar. He proposed a number of novel Uralic, Indo-European and Nostratic etymologies, and collected a large body of material on the borrowed lexicon of the languages of Siberia (including Russian).

Helimski proposed a number of modifications to the traditional theory of the "genealogical tree" with respect to the Uralic data, which affected comparative studies in general.

He worked on problematics of shamanism among the Samoyedic peoples, collected and published texts of shamanistic incantations.

He published several editions of "Таймырский этнолингвистический сборник" ("Taimyr Ethno-Linguistic Compendium", RSUH) and other works on Uralistics.

Helimski initiated the development of a digital database of Uralic, which later became part of Sergei Starostin's StarLing Project. (The database is based largely on Károly Rédei's Uralic Etymological Dictionary, UEW.)

Main publications

  • Очерки по селькупскому языку: Тазовский диалект. Ч. 1–3. М., 1980, 1993, 2002 (Co-authored with: А. И. Кузнецова et al.).
  • Древнейшие венгерско-самодийские языковые параллели: Лингвистическая и этногенетическая интерпретация. М., 1982.
  • The Language of the First Selkup Books. Szeged, 1983 – (Studia Uralo-Altaica 22).
  • Die Matorische Sprache: Wörterbuch – Grundzüge der Grammatik – Sprachgeschichte unter Mitarbeit von Beáta Nagy. Szeged, 1997. – (Studia Uralo-Altaica 41).
  • Компаративистика, уралистика: Лекции и статьи. М., 2000.
  • Самодийско-тунгусо-маньчжурские лексические связи. М.: Языки славянской культуры, 2007 (co-author: А. Е. Аникин).

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