Vera Gribanova

Mahmud al-Kashgari's map of areas inhabited by Turkic peoples, 11th century

Since 2010, much of my work has focused on Uzbek, a Turkic language spoken in Central Asia. Though Uzbek has a very healthy speaker population, it is both under-described and under-investigated, especially within the generative tradition. The most complete descriptive grammar was written, in Russian, by the Soviet linguist Andrei Nikolaevich Kononov (but the fact of its being in Russian limits its accessibility). The scarcity of generative work on Uzbek and more generally on Turkic languages spoken in the former Soviet Republics stems in part from the fact that, until fairly recently, the contact language for interacting with speakers was Russian. Although this is changing slowly, it has meant that little attention has been paid within generative work to a whole host of Turkic languages which offer, among other things, rich opportunities for investigations of micro-variation.

In my fieldwork and in the published work that results, my goals are to provide a fuller picture of the details of Uzbek, and to understand how those details bear on theoretical questions that are of broad interest both within and beyond Turkic. Recent investigations involve the structure of sluicing-like constructions, genitive case and agreement in nominalized clauses, and word formation processes involving the polar question particle, -mi.


It has been known for a long time that there is regional variation involving lexical inventory and phonological attributes of the language. This is no surprise: Uzbekistan is surrounded (though not exclusively) by other Turkic-speaking nations, so regional variants often conform in some respects to the Turkic languages spoken in neighboring countries. In the course of my investigations I have been pleased and excited to find, in addition, a good amount of syntactic micro-variation across Uzbek speakers. In addition to the regional differences, there are also signs of syntactic change: younger speakers' grammars appear to differ significantly from older speakers'. I try to document (and make sense of) this micro-variation whenever I come across it, keeping in mind the longer-term goal of trying to understand the consequences of both the regional variation and the language change for our theories of syntactic and morphological structure-building.

Patterns of variation I have so far come across include:


I'm deeply grateful to the native Uzbek speakers that I've had the pleasure of working with over the years (in Tashkent, Bukhara, Moscow, New York and California) --- for their thoughtfulness in matters concerning the Uzbek language, their friendship, and their hospitality.

Unless I am investigating prosodic or phonological issues, I typically do not record sessions. For some of my larger projects, though, I have collected datasets that focus on particular phenomena, sometimes involving variation in speaker judgments and numerous factors interacting to affect those judgments. I am in the process of archiving these datasets, along with some minimal annotation, and making them publicly available via the Stanford Digital Repository. Here is a (slowly growing) list of pointers to those files:

Uzbek -mi inversion
Uzbek cleft clauses and sluicing-like constructions
Uzbek case, agreement and differential argument marking patterns

I'm thankful to the
Hellman Fellows Fund for the financial support that has allowed much of this fieldwork to happen, especially early in my time at Stanford.