Honorary doctors named by Faculty of Languages

27 september 2012

Andrej Anatoljevitj Zaliznjak, a professor of Russian known for his research on medieval birch-bark letters from Novgorod, and Michèle Fruyt, a professor of Latin at Paris IV Sorbonne, have been selected to receive honorary doctorates from the Faculty of Languages at Uppsala University.

Professor Andrej Anatoljevitj Zaliznjak is a leading linguist, especially regarding the Russian language. He is now being honoured for his pioneering work in broad areas of Russian morphology, accentology, syntax, and “linguistic archaeology”.

The research that has attracted the most attention in recent decades has focused on the reading and interpretation of birch-bark letters. These letters, written primarily on birch bark and excavated mainly in Novgorod (Holmgård in Swedish), comprise everyday messages between simple people, composed in a written language specific to Novgorod. Some letters can be traced back as far as the 11th century, although most are from the 14th and 15th centuries. Letter-writers include women and children, indicating a level of passive and active literacy in this area entirely different from what was thought typical.  Research on these birch-bark letters has changed the view of the language situation in the medieval period and is of great scientific value.

Zaliznjak’s monographs are constantly being reissued and have already become classics. One of his research areas is Russian morphology. His now classic Grammatical Dictionary of the Russian Language appeared in 1977. Most of today’s computerized language-analysis programs for machine translation, computer-supported morphological analysis, etc., rely on principles that underlie this work. Another major research area involves accentology.

Professor Michèle Fruyt is a French scholar who has done considerable work to create research collaboration and networks of various kinds, both in France and abroad. Among other things, she has addressed the lack of contact between different research traditions resulting from lack of language understanding. The status of French as an international language has weakened quite dramatically in recent decades, which has entailed that the great advances made by French research risk being neglected in linguistic research strongly dominated by the Anglo-Saxon tradition.

Her research is in Latin linguistics, often from a historical perspective. She has done research on morphology and semantics, but has also been interested in, for example, grammaticalization processes and the relations between spoken and written language. Each year Fruyt arranges a comprehensive series of seminars at the Sorbonne, events attended by virtually all scholars in Latin language research in France, and many researchers are also invited from abroad. She took the initiative for and directs an extensive French and international collaborative project called DHELL, which aims to update our knowledge primarily of Latin vocabulary.

For more information, please contact Gerd Haverling (regarding Michèle Fruyt), mobile: +46 (0)70-537 2605, or Karine Åkerman Sarkisian (regarding Zaliznjak), tel: +46 (0)18-471 13 00.