Alexandra Aikhenvald

  (Redirected from Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald)

Alexandra Yurievna "Sasha" Aikhenvald (Eichenwald) FAHA is a 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

Alexandra Yurievna Aikhenvald

(1957-09-01) September 1, 1957 (age 64)
CitizenshipRussian, Australian
Spouse(s)R.M.W. Dixon
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisStructural and Typological Classification of Berber Languages (1984)
Academic work


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.[1] 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[2] (Hittite[1]). She also studied Sanskrit, Akkadian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Hungarian, Arabic, Italian and Ancient Greek. Outside of her classes, she learned Estonian and Hebrew.[1] 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).[2] 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.[2]

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.[3] Dixon and Aikhenvald both resigned in May 2008.[4] In January 2009, she became a professor at the James Cook University,[5] where she and R. M. W. Dixon founded The Language and Culture Research Group.[6]

She speaks Tok Pisin, and has written a grammar of the Sepik language Manambu, a language she self-professedly occasionally dreams in.[7][8]

Research workEdit

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.[9] She has established a typology of classifiers[10] and worked out parameters for the typology of evidentials as grammatical markers of information sources.[11] In addition, she authored a comprehensive grammar of Warekena and of Tariana, both Arawak languages, in addition to a Tariana–Portuguese dictionary (available online).

Awards and honorsEdit

Aikhenvald was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1999.[12] In 2012, she was awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship.[13]


  • Non-canonical marking of subjects and objects, 2001
  • Areal diffusion and genetic inheritance : problems in comparative linguistics, 2001
  • Evidentiality, 2004
  • The Manambu language of East Sepik, Papua New Guinea, 2008
  • Imperatives and commands, 2010


  1. ^ a b c "Me and other languages" - A.Y. Aikhenvald's interview with ABC Radio National, 9 February 2008
  2. ^ a b c Dr. Aikhenvald's CV (at JCU site; accessed 20 December 2009)[dead link]
  3. ^ Research Centre for Linguistic Typology: Ten Years' Achievements (2006)
  4. ^ RCLT Newsletter, 2009
  5. ^ "Contact Us - JCU Australia". Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  6. ^ "LINGUIST List 20.138: Language and culture research group at James Cook University". The LINGUIST List. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  7. ^ Alexandra Aikhenvald [The Manambu Language of East Sepik, Papua New Guinea] Oxford University Press, 2008 p.xvi.
  8. ^ Maria Zijlstra (ed.) 'Me & other languages,''RN summer series, part 1: 9 February 2008:'When I travelled to New Guinea, I had to learn Tok Pisin -- the major language of Papua New Guinea, a really delightful enterprise. Manambu is my other favourite language, in which I dream every so often.'
  9. ^ Language contact and language change in Amazonia. By Alexandra Aikhenvald, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-925785-X
  10. ^ Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald,Classifiers: A Typology of Noun Categorization Devices, Oxford University Press, 2000, pb. 2003, ISBN 0-19-926466-X
  11. ^ Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, Evidentiality Oxford University Press 2004, pd. 2006, ISBN 0-19-926388-4
  12. ^ "Fellows: Alexandra Aikhenvald". Australian Academy of the Humanities. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  13. ^ "JCU two join elite of researchers". James Cook University. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2018.

External linksEdit