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'I Am Happy the Conference on Caucasian Languages Finally Took Place in Moscow'

'I Am Happy the Conference on Caucasian Languages Finally Took Place in Moscow'

At the end of November, HSE School of Linguistics hosted the Uslar Conference — an international event for scholars studying the Caucasian languages. Participants and organizers have shared their impressions with HSE News. 


Johanna Nichols
Professor Emerita, University of California, Berkeley 

Excellent. Huge success. The talks were all very interesting. I am writing a book on the Caucasian languages, and lots of gaps were cleared away here. I worked a lot with Chechen and Ingush languages, so I am not a beginner in the field, and yet there was a lot of new stuff that I learned. 

Gilles Authier
École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris

I am happy the conference on the Caucasian languages finally took place in Moscow. I'm sorry that some Western scholars were unable to make it here. The content of the talks was quite interesting. I think it was a very good idea to focus on one particular theme, i.e. on valency.

Generally speaking, I think there should be more research on different languages. What is important, I think that the students should be more involved in the fieldwork. People should not hesitate to choose a topic that is not taken care of by some professional linguist. I think that's a problem of Russian students: they should pick up the language they want to work with themselves, not the one their teacher tells them to choose. And the language might be next door! Even in Moscow there are lots of people from the Caucasus with very good knowledge of language. Or you could go there, go to Dagestan — if you know why you're going there, there's no danger, people will welcome you.  

Samira Verhees
Doctoral student in Philology

Peter von Uslar died more than 140 years ago, but the field of Caucasian studies that he established is very much alive today, or, as Yakov Testelets put it, is in a state of revival. Of course, Caucasian studies were never ‘dead’ as such, but at the moment their popularity is visibly growing among students and young scholars. For that reason the conference itself was quite a lively one, with lots of questions, discussions and even with certain amount of indoor field work, as some of the participants were native speakers of the languages that were being researched. The conference showed that Caucasian languages are of interest for linguistic typology and for linguistics in general. However, the description of many Caucasian languages is far from finished.

In fact, an entire conference dedicated to the Caucasian languages is a rare thing. More often you hear such talks either at some big typological conference or at small-scale seminars focused on a particular Caucasian language family. The Uslar Conference became a meeting place for researchers of a multitude of languages, many with their own theoretical approaches. The participants were of different countries, nationalities and ages, but what they all share is their passion for Caucasus and its diverse languages.


George Moroz
Organizer, Lecturer at HSE School of Linguistics

The conference had plenty of talks and plenty of listeners. When I was doing the organizational work, I thought it was going to be a tiny group of people all familiar to each other. So I was glad to see my expectations proved wrong. The conference attracted lots of participants, and among them were students of our school who actively participated by asking a lot of pertinent questions.


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