Jonathan David Bobaljik


Professor of Linguistics

Faculty Associate

Jonathan Bobaljik holds a BA in Russian and Slavic Studies from McGill University (including study at Leningrad State 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. Bobaljik’s research 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? 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. Bobaljik’s research is concerned with the documentation of endangered languages, especially the Itelmen language of Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, with which he has been involved since the early 1990s.

Current Project
Bogoras's Itelmen Notebooks (NEH), Itelmen Dictionary projects (NSF)
Foreign Language


, Linguistics
Selected Publications

Bobaljik, Jonathan David and Susi Wurmbrand. 2002. Notes on Itelmen Agreement. Linguistic Discovery, vol 1.1.

Bobaljik, Jonathan David. 2012. Universals in Comparative Morphology. MIT Press. [2014 Bloomfield Book award, Linguistic Society of America]

Bobaljik, Jonathan David. 2018. Disharmony and decay: Itelmen vowel harmony in the 20th century. In Pietro Cerrone Roberto Petrosino, and Harry van der Hulst, eds., From sounds to structures: beyond the veil of Maya. Berlin: Mouton, 161-192.

Peter W. Smith, Beata Moskal, Ting Xu, Jungmin Kang and Jonathan David Bobaljik. 2018. Pronominal Suppletion: Case and Number. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.

Bobaljik, Jonathan David. To appear. The Chukotkan “inverse” from an Itelmen perspective. Acta Linguistica Petropolitana – vol. 13.

617 495 9339