Memorial linguistics professor receives highest scholarly honour
by Leslie Vryenhoek
Described as “a master of several humanities disciplines,” Dr. Vit Bubenik has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada. (Pnoto by Chris Hammond)
Linguistics professor Dr. Vit Bubenik has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). This is considered the highest honour that can be attained by scholars, artists and scientists in Canada.
Also known as the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada, the RSC was founded in 1882 to honour scholars of exemplary achievement. In citing Dr. Bubenik’s accomplishments, the RSC refers to him as “a master of several humanities disciplines: Classics, Indology, Slavic, Semitic, Medieval Studies, Comparative and Historical Linguistics, who has added a new dimension to such studies.”
Dr. Bubenik has studied a remarkable range of languages, and is an expert on the origins of modern languages, how these have diverged from common ancestors, and what the divergences tell us about history, culture and the movement of people.
He has written several monographs. The Structure and Development of Middle Indo-Aryan Dialects and A Historical Syntax of Late Middle Indo-Aryan both investigate the evolution of modern Indic languages from Sanskrit. The Phonological Interpretation of Ancient Greek and Hellenistic and Roman Greece as a Sociolinguistic Area also offered new insights on ancient languages. Based on the massive body of Ancient Greek inscriptions uncovered in the 19th and 20th centuries, these works established that linguistic idiosyncrasies recorded on long-buried stones can yield important new information on life and languages of the past.
Dr. Bubenik has also co-authored two volumes with Memorial professor emeritus Dr. John Hewson. Tense and Aspect in Indo-European Languages (1997) traces the verbal systems of major Indo-European languages back to their proto-language.
From Case to Adposition: The Development of Configurational Syntax in Indo-European Languages (2006) covers all 12 Indo-European language families, following the evolution of patterns in language from the earliest documents through to today. As with Tense and Aspect, this latest volume has been hailed as a major contribution to the study of Indo-European languages one that answers many theoretical questions while emphasizing the crucial importance of historical linguistic study.
In addition to his expertise in Indo-European languages, Dr. Bubenik also works with Semitic languages. This fall he is teaching a course in Modern Arabic at Memorial, and his current SSHRC-funded project investigates the morphology and syntax of Akkadian and Aramaic. Recently, he has been studying Tashelhiyt, one of the Berber languages spoken in Morocco, to ascertain how far the principles of comparative method are applicable to the Hamito-Semitic family of languages.
Dr. Bubenik is among 78 new RSC Fellows, along with one Foreign Fellow and one Specially Elected Fellow, who have been elected to serve, and who will be inducted into RSC’s ranks on Nov. 17 in Edmonton.
The RSC undertakes a wide range of activities to promote learning and research in the arts and sciences. It also organizes international exchanges and visiting scholar programs with similar national academies, and promotes Canadian participation in projects and conferences around the globe.