Alexandra Yurievna Aikhenvald
September 1, 1957
|Thesis||Structural and Typological Classification of Berber Languages (1984)|
Alexandra Yurievna "Sasha" Aikhenvald (Eichenwald) is an Russian Australian linguist specialising in linguistic typology and the Arawak language family (including Tariana) of the Brazilian Amazon basin. She is a professor at the James Cook University.
Alexandra Aikhenvald was born to a grandson of Yuly Aykhenvald; Natalia Shvedova was her paternal aunt. She was fascinated by languages from early childhood, picking up some Spanish from her parents' Spanish flatmate, and dreaming of majoring in Latin and Classical studies in university. A friend taught her German during her high school years, and she also mastered French.
Aikhenvald earned her undergraduate degree from Moscow State University, with a thesis on Anatolian languages (Hittite). She also studied Sanskrit, Akkadian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Hungarian, Arabic, Italian and Ancient Greek. Outside of her classes, she learned Estonian and Hebrew. After graduation, she joined the research staff of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where she earned her Cand. Sc. degree (Soviet equivalent of Ph.D.) in 1984 with a thesis on the "Structural and Typological Classification of Berber Languages" (1984). She published the first Russian grammar of modern Hebrew in 1985. She also mastered Yiddish, the language of her grandparents, which was, however, never spoken at home.
In 1989-1992, Aikhenvald did research work in Brazil, where she mastered Portuguese, learnt five Brazilian Indian languages, and wrote a grammar of the Tariana language. In 1993 she started her work in Australia, first at Australian National University, later at La Trobe University.
In 1996, the expert on Australian aboriginal languages R. M. W. Dixon and Aikhenvald established the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at Australian National University in Canberra. On January 1, 2000, the center relocated to La Trobe University in Melbourne. Dixon and Aikhenvald both resigned in May 2008. In January 2009, she became a professor at the James Cook University, where she and R. M. W. Dixon founded The Language and Culture Research Group.
Aikhenvald has published work on Berber languages, Modern and Classical Hebrew, Ndu languages (specifically Manambu of East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea), alongside a number of articles and monographs on various aspects of linguistic typology.
She has worked on language contact, with reference to the multilingual area of the Vaupés River Basin. She has established a typology of classifiers and worked out parameters for the typology of evidentials as grammatical markers of information sources. In addition, she authored a comprehensive grammar of Warekena and of Tariana, both Arawak languages, in addition to a Tariana-Portuguese dictionary (available online).