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TheTocharianTrek SIGNED

The Tocharian Trek: A linguistic reconstruction of the migration of the Tocharians from Europe to China

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






 TheTocharianTrek project word cloud

Explore the words cloud of the TheTocharianTrek project. It provides you a very rough idea of what is the project "TheTocharianTrek" about.

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Project "TheTocharianTrek" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
address: RAPENBURG 70
city: LEIDEN
postcode: 2311 EZ

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Netherlands [NL]
 Total cost 1˙499˙980 €
 EC max contribution 1˙499˙980 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2017-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2018
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2018-04-01   to  2023-03-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    UNIVERSITEIT LEIDEN NL (LEIDEN) coordinator 1˙499˙980.00


 Project objective

The long trek of the Tocharians from Europe to China is one of the most disputed issues in the migration history of Eurasia. Tocharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family, which includes a.o. English, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. The Indo-European languages stretch in one uninterrupted belt from Ireland to the Sea of Bengal, but Tocharian, discovered in manuscripts from the Tarim Basin in Northwest China dating from c. 500–1000 CE, is a notorious exception to this geographic distribution.

The common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, Proto-Indo-European, can be hypothetically reconstructed and is often located in the east of present-day Ukraine. Therefore, speakers of early Tocharian must have made a long trek eastward before they settled in the Tarim Basin. Archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that they first moved east to southern Siberia around 3500 BCE and then south to the Tarim Basin in China, where they may have arrived as early as 2000 BCE. The arrival of the Tocharians in the Tarim Basin is possibly linked to ancient corpses found there: the so-called Tarim Mummies.

Curiously, linguistic evidence has mostly been neglected. Therefore, the proposed project aims to provide an integrated linguistic assessment of the hypothesised migration route of the Tocharians.

Languages preserve precious information about their prehistory through the effects of language contact. Through close scrutiny and periodisation of the different layers of contact of Tocharian and its prehistoric neighbours, the project will reconstruct the migration route of the Tocharians from the Proto-Indo-European homeland all the way to China.

The crucial Siberian phase of the migration shows the groundbreaking nature of the approach. Genetic evidence points to influence from local Siberian populations on the early Tocharians. Likewise, the Tocharian language shows such heavy impact of local Siberian languages that this may be called the “birth of Tocharian”.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Peyrot, Michaël; Pinault, Georges-Jean; Wilkens, Jens
Vernaculars of the Silk Road: A Tocharian B-Old Uyghur Bilingual
published pages: , ISSN: 0021-762X, DOI: 10.2143/ja.307.1.3286340
Journal Asiatique 2019-12-17
2019 Michaël Peyrot
The deviant typological profile of the Tocharian branch of Indo-European may be due to Uralic substrate influence
published pages: 72-121, ISSN: 2212-5884, DOI: 10.1163/22125892-00701007
Indo-European Linguistics 7/1 2019-12-17
2019 Martin Sikora, Vladimir V. Pitulko, Vitor C. Sousa, Morten E. Allentoft, Lasse Vinner, Simon Rasmussen, Ashot Margaryan, Peter de Barros Damgaard, Constanza de la Fuente, Gabriel Renaud, Melinda A. Yang, Qiaomei Fu, Isabelle Dupanloup, Konstantinos Giampoudakis, David Nogués-Bravo, Carsten Rahbek, Guus Kroonen, Michaël Peyrot, Hugh McColl, Sergey V. Vasilyev, Elizaveta Veselovskaya, Margarita Ge
The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene
published pages: 182-188, ISSN: 0028-0836, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1279-z
Nature 570/7760 2019-12-17
2019 Peyrot M. & Kroonen G.J.
Supplementary information 9 – The formation of the Siberian linguistic landscape
published pages: 132–148, ISSN: 0028-0836, DOI:
Nature 2019-12-17

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