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New Postdoctoral Fellowship Will Support Endangered Iranian Languages

Linguist and philanthropist Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali

A generous grant of $210,000 from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute to Stony Brook University has helped establish the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Postdoctoral Fellowship in Endangered Iranian Languages in the Department of Linguistics for three years. The Department of Linguistics at Stony Brook is one of the nation’s top-ranked linguistics departments with faculty specializing in Iranian linguistics.

Linguist and philanthropist Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali
Linguist and philanthropist Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali

Named for linguist and philanthropist Dr. Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali, the fellowship will promote research on the linguistic heritage of Iran, focused on endangered Iranian languages, in particular Caspian languages. Dr. Mir-Djalali is an expert in language education, cross-cultural communication and Persian studies. She holds a doctoral degree in linguistics with honors from the Sorbonne in Paris and was a faculty member at Georgetown University and UC Berkeley. In 2018 the Ministry of Culture in France bestowed upon Dr. Mir- Djalali the title of Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres — one of France’s most prestigious awards — in recognition of her lifelong and significant contributions to Persian arts and culture in France and around the world.

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute was founded by Dr. Mir-Djalali in 2000 to support cultural and educational activities and nurture new educators who can preserve the transmission and instruction of Persian language and culture. The institute has awarded several million dollars in grants to establish and strengthen Persian academic programs at prestigious universities in the US and around the world and has provided dissertation completion support to PhD students in linguistics and Persian language and culture.

“We are delighted to establish this new fellowship specializing in endangered Iranian languages at Stony Brook University, with its recognized academic strength in Iranian linguistics,” Dr. Mir-Djalali said. “Persian and Iranian languages are woven into a rich culture going back thousands of years; it is gratifying to make this investment in postdoctoral scholars whose work will enable the preservation and documentation of the Caspian languages, an important subgroup of endangered Iranian languages. The documentation and analysis of the linguistic complexities and cultural subtleties of these languages will shed light on our understanding of natural language and linguistic theory. This work will strengthen the field and, more broadly, lead to greater cultural understanding, which is at the core of the mission of Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.”

The doctoral program in Stony Brook’s Department of Linguistics has consistently attracted top-quality graduate students, recently including students with expertise in Iranian languages. It is one of a few top programs to have faculty expertise in Iranian languages. The Linguistics program began in 1968 and was established as a formal department in the mid-80s. A doctoral program was introduced in 1992. Stony Brook Linguistics is today one of only a few departments that offer three stand-alone linguistics degrees (BA, MA and PhD) and two degrees in TESOL and TESOL Certification (BA and MA). It also offers an MA program in computational linguistics.

“We are extremely grateful to Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for establishing the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Postdoctoral Fellowship in Endangered Iranian Languages. This fellowship will further the preservation and documentation of Caspian languages, an important and endangered subgroup of the languages of Iran,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Nicole Sampson.

Following a national and international call for applications, the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Postdoctoral Fellowship will be awarded to a scholar holding a doctorate in Iranian languages and linguistics with expertise in one of the Caspian languages. The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Postdoctoral Fellow will be expected to conduct research in the field and teach for a three-year term.

“The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Postdoctoral Fellowship in Endangered Iranian Languages provides a unique opportunity to expand our understanding of Iranian language structure and variation,” said Linguistics Department Former Chair Richard Larson. “This generous grant will allow us to explore in detail one of the languages of the Caspian region, for which no modern grammars in English currently exist. The results will be a significant contribution to both linguistics and Iranian Studies.”


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  • It is really a very good initiative to save and secure the centuries old cultural/ language through documentation.