Obituary: Alexander E. Kibrik (26.03.1939-31.10.2012)

Alexander Kibrik (Александр Евгеньевич Кибрик) passed away on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 after a long illness.

Alexander Kibrik was the head of the Chair of theoretical and applied linguistics of the Philological faculty of the Moscow State University from 1992  and until his death, and was involved with the department since its earliest days in 1960-ies.

The scientific output of Alexander Kibrik includes several monographs on descriptive, theoretical and applied linguistics, field methods and linguistic typology, several edited volumes on the grammar of Daghestanian languages (Archi, Tabassaran, Khinalug, Godoberi, Tsakhur, Bagwalal), and numerous articles on problems of general linguistics and individual languages ranging from Russian to Alutor.  Since late 1960-ies till mid-2000-s Kibrik organized linguistic field-trips to the languages of the Caucasus, Pamir, Kamchatka and the Volga region, which are now followed by similar field-trips organized by his students and colleagues. Being one of the leading figures in Russian linguistics for several decades, Kibrik has played a major role in the introduction of modern descriptive methods and typological thinking into Russian linguistics, as well as in the bridging the gap between the Russian and the Western linguistic traditions after the fall of the iron curtain (and even before that, cf. a collection of papers on modern syntactic theories translated into Russian and edited by Kibrik in the early 1980-ies).

The role of Kibrik’s scientific and pedagogical activities in the formation of several generations of linguists (many of which have become prominent figures in linguistics in Russia and in the West) and in the moulding of the Moscow school of descriptive and typological linguistics cannot be overestimated. The major tenets of Kibrik’s school of linguistics are

– rigorous attitude to theoretical claims and descriptive methodology coupled with the belief that theory and description are deeply interrelated;

– empirical grounding in detailed data obtained by the linguist him or herself, e.g. via fieldwork;

– typological awareness and orientation towards underdescribed languages;

– intertwining of scientific and pedagogical activities, whereby undergraduate students get involved into serious research projects (e.g. fieldwork) on a par with skilled linguists;

– a novel framework of team fieldwork involving undergraduate and graduate students and specialists in different domains of language;

– an open-minded attitude towards theoretical and methodological  frameworks, and coupling of rigorous analytic methods with functionally and cognitiviely oriented theoretical basis.

Alexander Kibrik, a great linguist and a great personality, who, following the words of his son Andrej Kibrik, “has done so much for linguists and linguistics”, will be deeply missed by his friends and colleagues, his former and present students and students of his students, and by the whole linguistic community.

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peterarkadiev (November 1, 2012). Obituary: Alexander E. Kibrik (26.03.1939-31.10.2012). Diversity Linguistics Comment. Retrieved July 19, 2024 from

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