University of Innsbruck

Alex­an­der Stei­ner


Academic Career

  • 2015 – 2019: Bachelor of Arts in Classica et Orientalia at the University of Innsbruck, focus on Ancient Near Eastern Philology, Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and Historical Linguistics

  • Winter 2018/19: semester abroad at Rikkyo University in Tōkyō (Japan)

  • 2019 – 2021: Master of Arts in Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at University of Innsbruck, focus on Ancient Oriental Philology and Historical Lingustics, title of the MA thesis:  Das semasiologische Feld des akkadischen Lexems dayyālu. Eine Studie zu Semantik und Bedeutungswandel (The Semasiological Field of the Akkadian Lexeme dayyālu. A Study on Semantics and Semantic Change)

  • Since winter 2021/22: guest lecturer at Kassel University, Germany

  • Since winter 2021/22: doctoral studies at Innsbruck University (department of Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies)

  • Since winter 2022/23: Master of Arts in Linguistics

Teaching Activity

  • Winter 21/22: Der Alte Orient im 2. Und im 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (the ancient near east in the 2nd and 1st millenia BCE), University of Kassel (Germany)

  • Winter 22/23: Überblick über die altpersische Sprache (Introduction to Old Persian), University of Kassel (Germany)

Research Interests

  • Ancient Near Eastern Philology

  • Semantics and Lexicology

  • Historical Linguistics

  • „Spatial Linguistics“ (Spatial Perception and Language)

  • History of the Ancient Near East

  • History of Central Asia

  • Cultural Contacts in Antiquity

  • Spatial Perception in Antiquitiy

  • Ancient Near Eastern Royal Inscriptions

Prices and Awards

  • Scholarship for excellent performance by the University of Innsbruck (academic year 2015/16)

  • Scholarship for excellent performance by the University of Innsbruck (academic year 2019/20)

  • Scholarship for excellent performance by the University of Innsbruck (academic year 2020/21)

  • Studienförderpreis des Deutschen Freundeskreises der Universitäten in Innsbruck (Study Support Award of the German Friends of the Universities in Innsbruck), 2021.

Language Skills

  • Modern: English (C1), Japanese (A1+/ A2)

  • Ancient: Akkadian (excellent knowledge), Sumerian (excellent knowledge), Old Persian (good knowledge), imperial Aramaic and Syrian (good knowledge), biblical Hebrew (good knowledge), ancient Ethiopian (basic knowledge), ancient Greek (basic knowledge), Gothic (basic knowledge), Hittite (basic knowledge), Latin (basic knowledge)

Lectures and Chairs

  • „Raumkonzeptualisierung in manichäischen Texten“ (Conceptualising Space in Manichaean Texts) at the doctoral programme Ancient Cultures of the Mediterranean (AKMe) in Innsbruck, 12th – 13th November 2021.

  • “Spatial Perception in Antiquity. Middle Iranian Terms for Cardinal Directions and their Background" at the NAWA Chair project meeting (From the Achaemenids to the Romans: Contextualizing empire and its longue-durée developments), Uniwersytet Wrocławski (Wrocław) 4th July 2022.


  • Chair to Section 7: Contingency and Imperial Claim at the online conference “Empires Through the Ages: Short-Term Empires – Rule or Exception?“ at Innsbruck University, 30th November – 2nd December 2021.

  • Chair to Panel 8: Central Asia at the conference “Conceptualizing Imperial Borderlands” in Bregenz, 3rd June 2022.

  • "From dawn till dusk. A study on the cardinal direction terms in iranian texts and their background" at the doctoral programme Ancient Cultures of the Mediterranean (AKMe) in Salzburg (AUT), 02.-03.02.2023

Dissertation Project

From Dawn till Dusk. A Study on Spatial Perception through Cardinal Direction Terms


main supervisor: Irene Madreiter, Innsbruck

second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Martin Joachim Kümmel, Jena

The dissertation described below deals with language contact in the Ancient Near East and Central Asia in the 1st millennium BCE and the 1st millennium CE. The main research focus concerns the perception of absolute space, namely the lexemes of cardinal direction and their underlying system of perception.

The main part of the thesis deals with the lexical field of cardinal direction terms. This lexical field is part of the so-called spatial vocabulary. Although this spatial vocabulary unfolds quite differently in the world’s languages in lexical terms, a rather similar linguistic mechanism lies behind it. Due to similar features of the landscapes that surround the speakers one can see strong similarities in the structure of spatial vocabulary of two unrelated languages from different world regions. The main sources for this thesis will be texts of the following languages: Old Persian (royal Inscriptions) as well as Middle Persian (royal inscriptions, religious writings, the geographical text Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr) Parthian and Avestan. Concerning the old persian epoch, it is crucia to include Akkadian, Aramaic and Elamite sources as references to understand the underlying system of spatial perception.  For Middle Persian and Parthian, the texts written in the context of the community of Manichaeans which spread along the so-called Silk Roads from Mesopotamia to China or the Indian subcontinent are of major interest. Because of their wide geographical dissemination in Central Asia and the various languages in which they are written (i.e. Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Old Uyghur and Middle Chinese), the sources to the Manichaean religion and its founder, Mani, are the perfect example for language contact and dissemination of Iranian languages (Middle Persian, Sogdian and Parthian) along the Silk Roads.

The dissertation aims to assess the spatial vocabulary oft he old and middle Iranian languages both lexically and semantically, diachronically and synchronically. The Old and Middle Iranian languages and placed in the context of the history of Iranian empires of the 1st millennium BC. The result is a comprehensive study on the development of the perception of space of Iranian empires, their connectivity via paths of communication, the impact of historical processes or events on the use of language and interaction of language and thought (i.e. perceptions) on the basis of the specific term of reference to space. As a consequence of this analysis, the dissertation will also turn to the historical question of the emergence of spatial knowledge in the context of the communication networks of the Near East with Central Asia (and vice versa) and the related emergence of notions of real and mythical spaces.



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