The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Abramovitz @ Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky conference

Last weekend, fifth-year student Rafael Abramovitz was an invited plenary speaker at an international conference in Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky (the administrative center of Kamchatka) devoted to “The Preservation and Development of the Native Languages and Culture of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Inhabiting the Territory of the Kamchatka Region”. Rafael’s research focuses on the syntax, morphology, and phonology of Koryak, an endangered Chukotko-Kamchatkan language with about 1,700 speakers. The title of Rafael’s plenary talk (in Russian) was “Formal Linguistics and the Koryak Language” (Формальная лингвистика и корякский язык), and he also presented a second talk entitled “Problems of Koryak Language Instruction:” (Проблемы обучения корякскому языку).

While on Kamchatka, Rafael gave a fantastic interview to local media, in Russian, in which he describes how his interest in the language was awakened by the discovery of a Russian-language Koryak grammar in the library at the University of Chicago (where he received his undergraduate degree), and stresses the importance of studying and documenting languages like Koryak both for for the benefit of its speakers and for the benefit of the science of language. Watch his interview at either of the following links:


Rafael tells us that the structure behind him during this interview is a yayanga, the traditional dwelling of the reindeer-herding Koryaks.