Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Jonathan David Bobaljik holds a BA in Russian and Slavic Studies from McGill University and a PhD in Linguistics from MIT. He was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and subsequently held appointments at McGill and the University of Connecticut before returning to Harvard in 2018. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Vienna, the University of Potsdam, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Leibniz-Centre for General Linguistics in Berlin, as well as at summer institutes at Cornell, Harvard, MIT, and internationally).
Bobaljik’s research areas include morphology and syntax – the form and structure of words and phrases – and within these areas he investigates questions about linguistic universals, variation, diversity: Can languages differ from one another without limit? Or are there constraints on possible grammatical diversity? What are the patterns and properties that characterize an abstract unity beneath the surface diversity of the world’s languages? And why do we find those patterns and not others? What explains the limits on potential variation? How much, if any, of the explanation requires domain-specific innate cognitive biases or a Universal Grammar? A significant strand in this work relates cross-linguistic comparative investigations with formally explicit theoretical work: exploring how specific observations about individual languages are the predictable manifestations of broad cross-linguistic patterns, as general principles interact with independently observable contingent properties of each language. An additional aspect of Bobaljik’s research is concerned with the documentation of endangered languages, especially the Itelmen language of Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.
Bobaljik’s work has been published in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, Linguistic Inquiry, the Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics, Lingua, Glossa, the Journal of Linguistics, Morphology, and other venues. His 2012 book: Universals in Comparative Morphology: Suppletion, Superlatives, and the Structure of Words (MIT Press) received the Linguistic Society of America’s Leonard Bloomfield Book Award. Bobaljik has also been awarded the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Prize (Humboldt Foundation, Germany) and a John S. Guggenheim fellowship (USA), and has been elected a fellow of the Linguistic Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.