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Distinguished Professor Alexandra Aikhenvald


  • Bio/Profile
  • When Distinguished Professor Sasha Aikhenvald was working in the East Sepik province of New Guinea she was fascinated to discover that the asset most prized by the people of the province was their name. In East Sepik, her name was important and valuable, but when she wanted to enrol in the classics department of Moscow State University in the old Soviet Union, her Jewish surname made her unacceptable.

    Instead she chose linguistics for its mathematical rhythms, crossword puzzle complexities and cultural idiosyncrasies. The decision was the catalyst for a prolific body of research that included Berber languages of North Africa and Hebrew but focused on tropical languages, predominantly those of Amazonia, the Papuan languages of New Guinea and Aboriginal Australia.