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David and Greg

Greg and David, the linguists featured in The Linguists, have formed a research team that has been active for more than a decade.

While still graduate students, they independently began dissertation fieldwork in southern Siberia, specifically the Republic of Tuva. Greg had been working in the neighboring region of Khakasia and David in western Mongolia.

Foreigners are not common in Tuva (or were not then at least) so it was only a matter of time before their paths crossed. During the course of their conversations, it became clear that both of them had been collecting data for not only for their respective dissertations, but also to produce a comprehensive description of the Tuvan language.

David, a specialist in sound systems, words, indigenous technologies, and knowledge systems, had complimentary interests to Greg, a specialist in verbs and nouns, sentences, language change, and language use. Each anticipated having significant gaps in their Tuvan descriptions, and the gaps were basically the special interests of the other. It was like the meeting of chocolate and peanut butter. David and Greg combined their materials to produce a jointly authored book.

The collaboration was so productive and successful that it continues to this day. David and Greg have produced a range of books, articles, and publications about endangered languages. They established the nonprofit Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. And of course, they have created movie magic in The Linguists.