Dr. M.A.C. (Michiel) de Vaan

  • Lecturer
  • Indo-European languages

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2125
E-Mail: noreply@leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics, LUCL diversen

Fields of interest

  • Dutch: etymology, historical linguistics, dialects
  • Old Germanic
  • Albanian
  • The linguistic history of Latin
  • Ancient Indo-Iranian languages
  • Comparative Indo-European reconstruction


For the last five years, I have been Principal Investigator of 'The Dawn of Dutch', a five-year project funded through the Vidi-scheme of the Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NWO). The project aims to explain the rise of Dutch as a linguistic entity, separate from Frisian and German. The main hypothesis is that language contact processes, in particular with Frisian in the western Low Countries, were of major importance for the development of Dutch. The main focus of my own research in this project is to determine which elements of Dutch grammar can be ascribed to contact with Frisian, and which cannot. Other research projects are concerned with a variety of subjects in the history of the Indo-European languages, such as Albanian, Germanic, Greek, Indo-Iranian, and Latin, with a focus (hitherto) on phonetics, phonology and morphology. In general, any archaeological, historical or geographic fact that sheds light on linguistic data from the Indo-European language has my attention.

Teaching activities

I teach courses at all levels of the BA and MA linguistics. Subjects are (1) more general and theoretical courses on language change, historical reconstruction, dialectology; (2) more specific courses on the philology and linguistic history of many ancient Indo-European languages, such as Albanian, Ancient Greek, Avestan, Latin, Lithuanian, Old Irish, and many Old Germanic languages; (3) introductions and advanced courses in the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European. I regularly (but not every year) teach at the Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics. At this moment (2014) I supervise the following PhD students: Borana Lushaj (on language contact between Albanian and Southern Italian dialects in southern Italy); Alexander Schwager (on the graphemics and internal layering of the so-called LeidenWilleram, a partly Old Dutch text); Sima Zolfaghari (a grammar and lexicographic study of Bakhtiari, a modern West Iranian language). I will be glad to take on new PhD students in the fields of my expertise. I also encourage BA and MA students who are considering a thesis on the history of Dutch, or on one of the other subjects mentioned above, to request my supervision

Curriculum vitae


  • 1992: Preparatory degree in Slavic Languages, Leiden University
  • 1996: MA in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Leiden University
  • 1994: Semester abroad at Vienna University
  • 1998: Semester abroad at Regensburg University
  • 2002: PhD (cum laude) at Leiden University. Dissertation: The Avestan Vowels.

  • 1996-1997: Scientific assistant at the University of Frankfurt am Main
  • 1997–2002: PhD candidate at Leiden University
  • 1999-2002: Assistant professor in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (ad interim), Leiden University
  • 2002 to present: Assistant professor in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Historical Linguistics and Dialectology, Leiden University
  • May-August, 2007: Visiting scholar at the Institute of Linguistics, Cornell University, Ithaca (NY), USA
  • September-October 2012: Honorary fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (USA)
  • From January 2014: Associate professor in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Historical Linguistics and Dialectology, Leiden University

Other functions
  • Redaction of the Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands, which appeared between 2003 and 2009
  • President of the Vereniging voor Limburgse Dialect- en Naamkunde, see www.vldn.be
  • President of the Kiliaan Foundation for the promotion of Dutch etymological studies

Conferences organized
  • First International Workshop on Franconian Tone Accents, Leiden University, 2003
  • The two-yearly Indo-European Colloquium Leiden/Münster, Leiden University, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011
  • The yearly national Dutch Linguistics Olympiad (from 2002)
  • Third International Linguistic Olympics, Leiden, 8–12 August, 2005
  • Sporen van Friezen en Fries in Noord-Holland [‘Traces of the Frisians and of Frisian in North-Holland’], Leiden University, 2010
  • Publiekssymposium Gespleten Tongen in de Lage Landen. Over standaardtaal, dialect en accent. Leiden, 12 November 2011
  • Albanian language and culture: 100 years of Independence. Leiden, 9–10 November 2012
  • The Lengthened Grade. Arbeitstagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft. Leiden, 29–31 July 2013

Key publications

  • Vaan, M.A.C., de (2011): PIE i-presents, s-presents, and their reflexes in Latin. Glotta : Zeitschrift fuer Griechische und Lateinische Sprache, 87, 23-36.
  • Vaan, M.A.C., de (2011): West-Germanic *ai in Frisian. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, 67, 301-314.
  • Vaan, M.A.C., de (2009): The derivational history of Greek híppos and hippeús. Journal of Indo-European Studies, 37, 198-213.
  • Vaan, M.A.C., de (2008): Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic languages. Leiden: Brill.
  • Vaan, M.A.C., de (2003): The Avestan Vowels. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Media and education

In 2011, I was interviewed in a TV series on the Dutch language. Topic of the episode was ‘How did Dutch sound 1,000 years ago?’ In the programme, two famous Flemish actors impersonate two speakers of Old and Middle Dutch. See http://www.canvas.be/video_overzicht/64324. The Dutch pop singer Spinvis remixed my text into a new song, see Youtube video below. In 2010, Alexander Lubotsky and I edited the booklet Van Sanskriet tot Spijkerschrift.Breinbrekers uit alle talen (Amsterdam University Press), which contains fifty assignments from previous linguistic olympiads, and which can be used by school teachers and students to train for the competition. In 2007, I took part in a dialectological field trip to northern Albania. See www.balcanicaucaso.org/ita/aree/Albania/Bocca-occhi-orecchie for a report. A dvd which can be used for educational purposes was also made.

Last Modified: 11-12-2015