Lev Michael

Research Expertise and Interest

linguistic typology, Amazonian languages, anthropological linguistics, language contact and areal typology, language documentation and description

Research Description

I am an anthropological linguist with an areal commitment to Amazonia and adjacent regions. My research focuses on the social, political, and cultural life of grammar, and conversely, on using our understanding of grammar to shed light on cultural history. In the former domain, my work focuses on the strategic uses of deictic grammatical categories (e.g. evidentiality) to create particular social effects, on the manipulation of phonological and morphological structure for verbally artistic ends, and on how languages as a whole come to serve as political resources and objects of political conflict. I am also interested in using genetic historical linguistics and contact linguistics as a tool for exploring the cultural history of Amazonia.

Methodologically, my work is grounded in detailed language description, which, tied to my political engagements in indigenous communities, has led to being substantially involved in community-oriented language documentation and revitalization. Due to the typologically remarkable nature of Amazonian languages, my work in language description has also led to an interest in language typology.

In the News

Is English the lingua franca of science? Not for everyone.

English has become the de facto language of science: International conferences are held in English, the world’s top scientific journals are in English and academics in non-English speaking countries get promoted based on their publications in English language journals. Even scientific jargon is in English — most non-English speakers use English terms and don’t bother inventing equivalent words in their native languages.
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