Lev Michael

Lev Michael

Associate Professor
Dept of Linguistics
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.

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