Professor Emerita Catherine Chvany, Slavic scholar, dies at 91

Professor Emerita Catherine Vakar Chvany, a recognized Slavic linguist and literary works scholar just who played a pivotal role in advancing the analysis of Russian language and literature in MIT’s international Languages and Literatures Section (today Global scientific studies and Languages), passed away on Oct. 19 in Watertown, Massachusetts. She was 91.

Chvany served in the MIT faculty for 26 many years before the woman your retirement in 1993.

Worldwide Studies and Languages mind Emma Teng noted that MIT’s flourishing Russian researches curriculum today is a history of Chvany’s foundational operate in the division. And, Maria Khotimsky, senior lecturer in Russian, said, “Several years of Slavists are grateful for Professor Chvany’s inspiring mentorship, while her works in Slavic poetics and linguistics are distinguished into the U.S. and internationally.”

A prolific and influential scholar

A respected scholar, Chvany blogged “From the Syntax of Be-Sentences in Russian” (Slavica Publishers, 1975); and co-edited four amounts: “New research in Russian Language and Literature” (Slavica, 1987); “Morphosyntax in Slavic” (Slavica, 1980); “Slavic Transformational Syntax” (University of Michigan, 1974); and “Studies in Poetics: Commemorative Volume: Krystyna Pomorska” (Slavica Publishers, 1995).

In 1996, linguists Olga Yokoyama and Emily Klenin published an modified number of her work, “Selected Essays of Catherine V. Chvany” (Slavica).

Inside her articles, Chvany took up a range of issues in linguistics, including not merely variants on verb “to be” but additionally hierarchies of circumstances in syntax of representatives and topics; definiteness in Bulgarian, English, and Russian; other dilemmas of lexical storage space and transitivity; hierarchies in Russian situations; and issues of markedness, including an important overview, “The development of idea of Markedness from the Prague Circle to Generative Grammar.”

In literature she took up language issues in the classic “Tale of Igor’s promotion,” Teffi’s poems, Nikolai Leskov’s quick tales, plus novella by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

From Paris to Cambridge 

“Catherine Chvany was constantly so present it is hard to think about the lady as gone,” said MIT Literature Professor Ruth Perry. “She had strong views and was not afraid to speak out about all of them.”

Chvany was born on April 2, 1927, in Paris, France, to émigré Russian moms and dads. During World War II, she along with her more youthful sister Anna had been delivered initially to the Pyrenees and then toward united states of america with assistance from a courageous younger Unitarian minister’s partner, Martha Sharp.

Fluent in Russian and French, Chvany rapidly mastered English. She graduated from the women’ Latin School in Boston in 1946 and attended Radcliffe College from 1946 to 1948. She left college to get married Lawrence Chvany and boost three kiddies, Deborah, Barbara, and Michael.

In 1961-63, she gone back to school and completed her undergraduate degree in linguistics at Harvard University. She obtained her PhD in Slavic languages and literatures from Harvard in 1970 and began her profession as an trainer of Russian language at Wellesley university in 1966.

She joined up with the faculty at MIT in 1967 and became an assistant teacher in 1971, a co-employee professor in 1974, as well as a complete teacher in 1983.

Heat, generosity, and friendship

Historian Philip Khoury, who was simply dean associated with the class of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences through the second several years of Chvany’s time at MIT, remembered her warmly as “a wonderful colleague which adored engaging with me on language understanding and exactly how the MIT Russian language researches program worked.”

Elizabeth Wood, a teacher of Russian history, recalled the cozy welcome that Chvany offered this lady when she came to MIT in 1990: “She always loved to cease and chat at the Tuesday faculty lunches, sharing tales of the woman life and her passion for Slavic languages.”

Chvany’s influence ended up being broad and longstanding, to some extent because of the woman expert affiliations. Chvany served on the consultative or editorial boards of “Slavic and East European Journal,” “Russian Language Journal,” “Journal of Slavic Linguistics,” “Peirce Seminar Papers,” “Essays in Poetics” (uk), and “Supostavitelno ezikoznanie” (Bulgaria).

Emily Klenin, an emerita teacher of Slavic languages and literary works at University of Ca at Los Angeles, noted that Chvany had a rehearse of articulating appreciation to those whom she mentored. She connected that training to Chvany’s connection with becoming aided during WWII. “the woman cozy and available attitude toward life had been reflected in her continuing interest and relationship for teenagers she mentored, even when, as most in the course of time did, they proceeded to resides concerning very different educational careers as well as no educational profession at all,” Klenin stated.

Memorial reception at MIT on November 18

Chvany is survived by her kiddies, Deborah Gyapong and her spouse Tony of Ottawa, Canada; Barbara Chvany and her husband Ken Silbert of Orinda, California; and Michael Chvany and his wife Sally of Arlington, Massachusetts; her foster-brother, William Atkinson of Cambridge, Massachusetts; six grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

A memorial reception should be held on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. within the Samberg meeting Center, 7th flooring. Donations in Chvany’s title may be meant to the Unitarian Universalist Association. Visit Friends of the UUA for web donations. Kindly RSVP to Michael Chvany,, if you want to attend the memorial.