Tag Archives: linguistics

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sasha Aikhenvald, specialist in linguistic typology

This is a guest post by Tara. Tara studies Law, French and Linguistics at the University of Newcastle and tries to keep a cooking blog.

Sasha (Alexandra) Aikhenvald was born to a Jewish family in Moscow in 1957. The environment at the time was not helpful to Dr Aikhenvald in her ambitions. Interest in languages other than Russian was not encouraged, and as a Jewish person Dr Aikhenvald faced many limits and discrimination. Yet, as she says in an interview with ABC radio, “I am stubborn, so in spite of all the difficulties the Soviets confronted me with, I did make an effort to develop myself intellectually.”

Dr Aikhenvald has worked with many different language groups throughout her career, including Berber languages, Hebrew, and some languages from the Papua New Guinea region. Some of her most interesting and beneficial work, however, was done and is done in Tariana, a language from north-west Brazil.

In this area language is strongly linked with culture and heritage, and a large number of languages existed in the area. Sadly though, various outside influence have lead to the decline of the majority of these languages. Tariana, for example, had approximately 100 speakers remaining when Dr Aikhenvald first started working in the region, even though around 2000 people identify with the Tariana ethnic group. In conjunction with local people, Dr Aikhenvald has produced a comprehensive grammar of this language, as well as a large dictionary and many starter lessons for learning the language. Not only is this information tremendously useful to the field of linguistics as a whole, Tariana being a a very interesting language where it is mandatory to express how you know something whenever you speak, but it has enabled the local people to attempt to reclaim an important part of their heritage and identity.

Dr Aikhenvald currently holds a position as Professor and Research Leader, People and Societies of the Tropics at the Cairns Institute within James Cook University.

Wikipedia: Alexandra Aikhenvald
James Cook University: Prof. Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

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Wednesday Geek Woman: Chang Jung a.k.a. Zhang Rong (张戎)

Submissions for Wednesday Geek Woman are still open and will close October 27 (this time).

This is a guest post by Wednesday. Wednesday (late of Weekday Blues) is a young geek feminist with an interest in postcolonialism, gender, acafandom, and literature.

Dr Chang Jung (b. 1952) is a Chinese author and historian most known for her three-part memoir Wild Swans , which documented not merely her coming-of-age in Mao-era China, but also the lives of her mother De Hong and her maternal grandmother Yu Fang. I first read Wild Swans at the age of twelve, and it left a vivid impression on me: her descriptions, the thoughtfulness of her observations, and her awareness of both privilege and oppression.

While Dr Chang’s published work has focused mainly on the lives of twentieth-century Chinese personages, it’s also worth noting that her qualifications are in linguistics. I was surprised when I learnt of this, because I had come to think of her as a historian, but I find the fact that her work is interdisciplinary to be pretty cool in itself.

Wikipedia: Jung Chang

Linkspam hangover (4th January, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Her Links Rose Up Forever (18th September, 2009)

Link Roundup: The Geekening (Sep 5th, 2009)