Universiteit Leiden

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Michaël Peyrot

Professor Comparative Indo-European Linguistics

Prof.dr. M. Peyrot
+31 71 527 4177

Michaël Peyrot is Professor Comparative Indo-European Linguistics at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. As a Comparative Indo-European Linguist, he focuses on Tocharian and its relationship to Indo-Iranian and non-Indo-European languages.

More information about Michaël Peyrot


I am fascinated by language, both as a synchronic system and in the course of change. For me the essential question is how languages have come to be as they are. For instance, how do different changes in a language correlate, i.e. how do changes in e.g. consonants and vowels, or in phonology and morphology, or in different morphological categories interact? How does language contact influence linguistic change? Which causes are there to language spread, language split and language death?

Research interests

  • Historical Linguistics
  • Language Contact and Prehistory
  • Indo-European Studies
  • Tocharian
  • Central Asia / Tarim Basin
  • Buddhism

Academic functions and training


Assistant Professor at Leiden University with the ERC-Stg project The Tocharian Trek.

2016- Assistant Professor at Leiden University with the NWO-VIDI project Tracking the Tocharians.
2014-2016 Postdoctoral researcher at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin, with the Marie Curie project Niya Tocharian: Language contact and prehistory on the Silk Road. 
2011-2014 Postdoctoral researcher for A Comprehensive Edition of Tocharian Manuscripts at the University of Vienna, Austria.
2009- Editor of Tocharian and Indo-European Studies.
2009-2010 Teacher / researcher at Leiden University.
2005-2009 Teacher / researcher at Leiden University (0.2 fte).

PhD student at Leiden University with The Tocharian subjunctive, supervised by Prof. Lubotsky (defence 28 September 2010, cum laude: circa best 5% of PhD awards; 0.8 fte position 2004–2009).

2004-2007 Contributor to the British Library International Dunhuang Project and the TITUS  Tocharica Project at Frankfurt University.
2001-2002  Editorial assistant of Cognitive Linguistics.
1999-2004 MA Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Leiden University (MA thesis Variant forms in Tocharian B; cum laude: circa best 5% of MA awards).
1999-2003 MA Dutch language and literature, Leiden University (MA thesis on argumentation). 

Funded projects

2018-2023 “The Tocharian Trek”, European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.
2016-2021 “Tracking the Tocharians”, The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) VIDI.
2014-2016 “Niya-Tocharian”, Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship.
2004-2009 “The Tocharian Subjunctive”, Leiden University PhD Scholarship.

PhD students

Alessandro Del Tomba (2016-2020)

The Tocharian gender system. A diachronic study. 

(co-tutelle Leiden University – Sapienza, Rome; currently Research Fellow / RTDA at Sapienza, Rome)

Federico Dragoni

watañi lāntaṃ: Studies on the Contacts between Tocharian and Tumshuqese and Khotanese in the Tarim basin. (Part of my VIDI project)
Chams Bernard
Iranian Loanwords in Tocharian. (Part of my VIDI project)
Olga Lundysheva
Studies on the Tocharian manuscripts of the Saint Petersburg (IOM RAS) collection. With special focus on Central Asian Brāhmī palaeography and codicology. 

(co-tutelle Leiden University – École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris)

Louise Friis

The phylogenetic position of Tocharian. (Part of my ERC-stg project)

Niels Schoubben

Niya Prakrit as a language in contact: Tocharian and Iranian elements in the Niya Documents. (Part of my ERC-stg project)

Abel Warries

Prehistoric Contact between Tocharian and Uralic. (Part of my ERC-stg project)

Memberships and cooperations

  • Cooperation partner of the “Sino-Indo-Iranica rediviva – Early Eurasian migratory terms in Chinese and their cultural implications” of Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Behr, University of Zurich.
  • Member of the Young Academy of Europe (since 2017).
  • Chercheur associé of the Unité Mixte de Recherche 7528, “Mondes iranien et indien”, of the CNRS / EPHE / Sorbonne Nouvelle / INALCO, Paris, France (2015–2019).
  • Member of the Advisory Council of the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (since 2017).
  • Collaborator of “A Comprehensive Edition of Tocharian Manuscripts” (CEToM) of Prof. Dr. Melanie Malzahn, University of Vienna (2011–2014; since 2014 external).

Editorial tasks

  • Co-editor of Tocharian and Indo-European Studies (since 2011, volume 12)
  • Co-editor of a.o. two Festschrifts, a conference proceedings, and Emil Sieg: Tocharologica

Professor Comparative Indo-European Linguistics

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics

Work address

Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden
Room number 2.21



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