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The School of Linguistics was founded in December 2014. Today, the School offers undergraduate and graduate programs in theoretical and computational linguistics. Linguistics as it is taught and researched at the School does not simply involve mastering foreign languages. Rather, it is the science of language and the methods of its modeling. Research groups in the School of Linguistics study typology, socio-linguistics and areal linguistics, corpus linguistics and lexicography, ancient languages and the history of languages. The School is also developing linguistic technologies and electronic resources: corpora, training simulators, dictionaries, thesauruses, and tools for digital storage and processing of written texts.
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In the end of November the School of Linguistics hosted the Uslar Conference — an international event for scholars studying the Caucasian languages. Participants and organizers share their impressions below.
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.
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, and personally I'd suggest to do it in summer, because November is not the best time to be in Moscow. But 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. And 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.
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, 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.
The conference had planty of talks and plenty of listeners. When I was doing the organizational work, I though 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 the students of our school who actively participated by asking a lot of questions. And of course, I’m really glad we were able to show the documentary about A.E. Kibrik.