Nonato explores the Brazilian language of the Kĩsêdjê in the Amazon rainforest

December 18, 2013

Wandering through his university’s library in São Paulo one day in 2002, Rafael Nonato noticed a book titled “Language.” Curious, he pulled it off the shelf.

The book was written in 1921 by a linguist named Edward Sapir, who did work on Native American languages. “It’s this very interesting book; he discusses the possible relationships between language and culture. I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool!’” Nonato says.

Then halfway through a computer engineering degree, Nonato found a linguistics program at the nearby State University of Campinas and began coursework there. Now, as a PhD student in linguistics at MIT, Nonato studies the indigenous Brazilian language Kĩsêdjê (keen-seh-jay), dividing his time between a Kĩsêdjê village on the outskirts of the Amazon rainforest and MIT, where he puzzles out the structure of the language.

Read more about Nonato on MIT News.

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