We are deeply saddened by the news that our former student and colleague in linguistics Maria Babyonyshev has died at the untimely age of 44, from complications of a devastating 2006 car accident. Masha received not one, but two degrees from MIT. She received her undergraduate degree in linguistics from MIT in 1990 (Phi Beta Kappa) and her PhD from our department in 1996, with a dissertation entitled Structural Connections in Syntax and Processing: Studies in Russian and Japanese. In fact, the word “connections” aptly describes Masha’s entire varied and influential research career, which steadfastly and continually charted and explored the links between linguistic theory, language acquisition and processing – as well as the links between the structure of her native language, Russian, and the other languages of the world. In her own papers and her many collaborations, Masha made some of the most interesting and cleverest connections we know between the theoretical and experimental sides of linguistics. Most recently, working with students and colleagues at Yale (where she was a member of the linguistics faculty) Masha had started investigating a striking pattern of language impairment widespread in one village in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia. As a researcher, as a member of our field, and as a friend, she will be badly missed.
Masha’s family writes us that they are “creating a fund to complete a project that Masha was pursuing over the last year out of her love of plants, flora and trees. The Antonovka Apple was her favorite apple growing up in Russia, but it is rarely used as an eating apple here and therefore is essentially not grown. She had recently imported seeds of the apple and was working on the plant science of growing seedlings. We wish to hire a plant scientist and nursery to complete the project and provide seedlings to our friends and family to plant where they would like. Masha’s living legacy will be the trees and apples. Please send contributions to: The Antonovka Fund, c/o Ted Walls and Nadia Babyonyshev, 67 Prospect Avenue, North Kingstown, RI 02852.”