Stockholm university

Maria Koptjevskaja TammProfessor

About me

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm [maˈriːa kɔpˈt͡ʃɛfskaja ˈtam] graduated from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the Lomonosov University in Moscow in 1979 and acquired her PhD degree at the Department of linguistics, Stockholm university in 1988 where she has been working since then. She was appointed as full Professor in 2001 and was head of the Section for General Linguistics between 2004 - 2011.

She has published extensively on various aspects of semantically oriented typology, where she often combines synchronic and diachronic approaches. A large portion of her work focuses on the interplay between lexical and grammatical semantics, in particular on the interaction of the lexical semantics of different classes of words with their possible syntactic and pragmatic functions and how this interaction is reflected in their morphosyntax. The phenomena studied include nominalisations, adnominal possession, quantification, mass/count distinctions (including the domain of pluralia tantum), kin-terms, proper names, finiteness etc. An important direction in Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm’s work has been areal typology, with the main focus on the European and, particularly, the circum-Baltic languages. She was a member of the Noun Phrase Group within the ESF Programme on the Typology of the European Languages (EUROTYP, (1989–1994) and contributor to the World Atlas of Language Structures (

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm’s most recent interests include cross-linguistic research on lexical typology (temperature terms, motion verbs), she has published work on the methodology of lexical-typological research and has been active in promoting lexical typology at various conferences and in courses at several European universities and summer schools.

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm is a fellow of Academia Europaea ( and also a member of its Section Committee for Linguistic Studies. She is the editor of Linguistic Typology ( She is a member of the Editorial Board of the journals Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung and Studia Linguistica (earlier also of Rivista di Linguistica), and of the open-access book series Studies in Linguistic Diversity at Language Science Press. She is a member of the Board of Consulting Editors of Linguistics, a member of the Advisory Board of Legon Journal of the Humanities, and a member of the Scientific Council at Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC). She was a member of the Review Panel for the EUROCORES (European Collaborative Research) Programme “EuroBABEL: Better Analyses Based on Endangered Languages”, ESF, 2008. 

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm has received the big Rettig Prize in the philosophical-philological class 2018 conferred by The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. 



A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • The linguistics of temperature

    2015. Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm.

    Book (ed)

    The volume is the first comprehensive typological study of the conceptualisation of temperature in languages as reflected in their systems of central temperature terms (hot, cold, to freeze, etc). The key questions addressed here include such as how languages categorize the temperature domain and what other uses the temperature expressions may have, e.g., when metaphorically referring to emotions (‘warm words’). The volume contains studies of more than 50 genetically, areally and typologically diverse languages and is unique in considering cross-linguistic patterns defined both by lexical and grammatical information. The detailed descriptions of the linguistic and extra-linguistic facts will serve as an important step in teasing apart the role of the different factors in how we speak about temperature – neurophysiology, cognition, environment, social-cultural practices, genetic relations among languages, and linguistic contact. The book is a significant contribution to semantic typology, and will be of interest for linguists, psychologists, anthropologists and philosophers.

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