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)

  • WiSe 2021/22 - WiSe 2023/24: Visiting Lecturer at the University of Kassel (Germany)

  • Since winter semester 2021/22: Doctoral Programme in Philosophy (research field: Ancient History)

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

Research Interests

  • Ancient Near Eastern History and Philology
  • History and Languages of Central Asia
  • Cultural Contacts in Antiquity
  • Ancient Perception of Space
  • Historical Linguistics
  • Linguistic Relativity
  • Lexicography

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)

  • Summer 2023:  Introduction to Old Persian, University of Kassel (Germany)
  • Winter 2023/24: Introduction to Old Persian, University of Kassel (Germany)




  • 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.

  • Excellence Scholarship for Doctoral Programmes (DK) for the dissertation as part of the doctoral programme "Entangled Antiquities" (2022-2024)

Third-party funded projects

  • Der Blick auf alte Welten durch die Linse der Innsbrucker Altertumswissenschaften, funded by the Tyrolean Science Funding 2022, University of Innsbruck.

Organisational activities


  • Posselt, Florian / Steiner, Alexander / Steinwender, Clemens: From Athens to Samarqand. Spatial Perception in Antiquity from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Taklamakan Desert, 20th Melammu Workshop, in Innsbruck, 17-19 January 2024.
  • Armbrüster, Jessika / Kröll, Noah / Posselt, Florian / Steiner, Alexander / Steinwender, Clemens: Autumn School of the doctoral programme 'Entangled Antiquities': Entanglement and Globalization in Ancient Worlds, in Innsbruck, 14-17.11.2023.


  • Programming with R for Historians and Linguists, led by Fafinski, Matteusz / Riemenschneider, Anja Milena in Innsbruck from 25-26 October 2023.

Language Skills

  • modern
    • Language level C1
      • English
    • Language level A1+/A2
      • Japanese (A1+/A2)
  • ancient
    • excellent knowledge
      • Akkadian, Sumerian, Old Persian
    • Good knowledge
      • Middle Persian, Tocharian
    • Basic knowledge
      • Ancient Greek, Bactrian, Biblical Hebrew, Gothic, Hittite, Latin, Parthian, Imperial Aramaic and Syriac


  • ‚Raumkonzeptualisierung in den manichäischen Texten‘ at the doctoral programme Ancient Cultures of the Mediterranean (AKMe) in Innsbruck, 12-13.11.2021.
  • ‚Spatial Perception in Antiquity. Middle Iranian Terms for Cardinal Directions and their Background‘ at the meeting of the NAWA project 'From the Achaemenids to the Romans: Contextualising empire and its longue-durée developments', at the Uniwersytet Wrocławski (Wrocław) 4.7.2022.
  • ‚From dawn till dusk. A study on cardinal direction terms in Iranian texts and their background‘ at the doctoral programme Ancient Cultures of the Mediterranean (AKMe) in Salzburg, 2.2.2023.
  • ‚Terms of Spatial Perception and their Relevance for Linguistic Affiliation‘ at the 19th melammu workshop The Linguistic Position of Sumerian: Isolate or not? in Innsbruck, 25.-26.5.2023.
  • ‚The Spectrum of Mesopotamian Chronography: a Narrative Tradition‘ at the conference Historiography at the End of Antiquity. Concepts, Audiences, and Regionality in the Broader Eastern Mediterranean, 500 – 700 in Innsbruck, 9.-11.6.2023.



  • Conference: Empires through the Ages: Short-term Empires – Rule or Exception? in Innsbruck, 30.11.–2.12.2021.
  • Conference: Conceptualizing Imperial Borderlands (9th c. BC – 9th c. AD, and Beyond) in Bregenz, 3.6.2022.
  • Autumn School: Entanglement and Globalization in Ancient Worlds, in Innsbruck, 14.-17.11.2023.
  • Conference: The Achaemenid-Persian Empire at its Heyday? The Era between Darius II and Darius III, in Wien, 29.11.–2.12 2023.
  • Conference: From Athens to Samarqand. Spatial Perception in Antiquity from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Taklamakan Desert in Innsbruck, 17.-19.01.2024.

Dissertation Project

Concepts of Space in Languages of Near Eastern and Central Asian Antiquity. A Survey of Sumerian, Akkadian, Iranian, and Tocharian Absolute Direction Terms

Supervisors: Irene Madreiter (Innsbruck), Prof. Dr. Martin Joachim Kümmel (Jena)

The dissertation deals with the linguistic realisation of spatial perception based on the lexemes for the main absolute direction terms/cardinal points (north, east, south, and west). The focus is on a comparative analysis of these concepts in the ancient Near Eastern languages Sumerian and Akkadian as well as in the Middle Iranian languages and Tocharian (Tocharian A and Tocharian B). This broad geographical and chronological framework allows, on the one hand, a view of linguistic universals for the emergence of terms for cardinal points and the possibilities of cultural transmission of spatial vocabulary and its underlying conceptualisations due to language contact.

The spatial vocabulary of a language consists of lexemes that serve to localise objects in the perceived space. Although the spatial vocabulary is lexically different in the languages of the world, there is a very similar linguistic mechanism in its emergence. This linguistic mechanism is defined in the psycholinguistic research of the Max Plank Institute in Nijmegen, in which Stephen C. Levinson in particular defined three linguistic frames of reference (relative, intrinsic, and absolute) that describe the relationship between speaker, object, and environment. The landscape also contributes significantly to the development of these spatial concepts. For example, it is possible to recognise strong similarities in the structure of the spatial vocabulary of two completely different languages from different parts of the world and language families if the surrounding landscape of the speakers has similar geographical characteristics. The topic of 'spatial perception' is seen through the lens of Edward Soja and his spatial trialectic of a firstspace, i.e. a real, tangible space, a secondspace, i.e. the imagined space, and a thirdspace, i.e. a "real-and-imagined space". This methodological approach allows us to read imperial, social, cultic, and linguistic spaces from the sources to better understand the meaning of these terms and their implications for the system of language and thought.

The sources for this work are naturally highly diverse. Sumerian and Akkadian offer a large corpus of sources of the most diverse genres. Administrative texts should be mentioned here first and foremost, but incantations, hymns, and royal inscriptions also deal with these terms. The text corpora of the Middle Iranian languages are considerably smaller. These include royal inscriptions as well as religious writings of the Zoroastrians and Manichaeans. In the two Tocharian languages (Tocharian A and Tocharian B), caravan passes, sales deeds and Buddhist literature are relevant to this work.

The result of this work is a comprehensive study of the development of one aspect of spatial vocabulary in a comparative linguistic perspective in the ancient Near East and Central Asia, the connectivity of these areas through their communication channels, and the interactions of language and thought. Another aspect to be included in the dissertation is the aspect of multilingualism and language contact. The speakers of the languages mentioned have never been in an isolated linguistic situation but were rather part of a globalised multilingual world. The influence of direct contact languages should be included in the analysis wherever possible.



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