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.