Archive for Obituaries

R.I.P Yogi Berra

Beatrice Santorini's Linguistic Humor page has a good collection of sayings attributed to Yogi Berra (1925-2015). Maybe the most relevant one today is "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours".

I won't be able to attend Yogi's funeral, but I'll link to his NYT obituary.

Update — and to Ben Zimmer at Slate, "Yogi Berra Turned Linguistic Vice into Virtue with His Cock-Eyed Tautologies".

Update #2 — "Yogi was an anchor baby".


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R.I.P. Henry Gleitman

Henry Gleitman — a great researcher, teacher, and friend — died Wednesday at the age of 90.

I will always remember him, vividly, as a wonderful person to talk with about any subject at all. And his breadth of knowledge, mental agility, and dramatic flair made him a famous and effective teacher. He taught at Swarthmore from 1948 to 1960, and at Penn from 1961 until his retirement a few years ago, presenting Psych 1 to tens of thousands of students; and the many editions of his introductory Psychology textbook brought his enthusiasm, erudition, and communicative skills to hundreds of thousands more.

A eulogy from the chair of Penn's psychology department described

the generations of undergraduates who filled his Introductory Psychology classes, often 3 or 4 hundred at a time, and loved and remembered him forever after. If they stayed in Philadelphia, they continued to stop him in the street and in local restaurants, always telling him how he established their love of the field of Psychology.  

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Ornette Coleman R.I.P.

Ornette Coleman died this morning at the age of 85.

Here's the start of his composition Peace, from the 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come:

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The other musicians are Don Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums).

In 1959, one of the local delinquents that I hung out with was a jazz enthusiast, who praised Coleman to me and got me to buy the album. If you don't know Coleman's music, let me urge you now, 56 years later, to go buy a copy in his memory.

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Adam Kilgarriff R.I.P.

I recently learned that Adam Kilgarriff died on Saturday May 16.

The weblog-journal that he maintained since his cancer diagnosis last fall gives a sense of the kind of person he was. The links on his homepage will tell you more about his work as a linguist, from his insights about word meaning (e.g. "I don't believe in word senses", Computers and the Humanities 1997), to his creation of the Sketch Engine, an interactive online system that "lets you see a concordance for any word, phrase or grammatical construction, in one of the corpora that we provide, or in a corpus of your own", and also provides "word sketches, one-page, automatic, corpus-derived summaries of a word's grammatical and collocational behaviour".

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R.I.P. Tex Logan

His Wikipedia entry tells us that "Benjamin Franklin 'Tex' Logan, Jr. (1927) was an American electrical engineer and bluegrass music fiddler. He died April 24, 2015 in the arms of his daughter, Jody."

Here he is playing with Bill Monroe in 1969:

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R.I.P. Jack Ely

Evidence that coherence is overrated — Sam Roberts, "Jack Ely, Who Sang the Kingsmen’s ‘Louie Louie’, Dies at 71", NYT 4/29/2015:

Jack Ely would later insist that as a 19-year-old singing “Louie Louie” in one take in a Portland, Ore., studio in 1963, he had followed the original lyrics faithfully. But, he admitted, the braces on his teeth had just been tightened, and he was howling to be heard over the band, with his head tilted awkwardly at a 45-degree angle at a single microphone dangling from the ceiling to simulate a live concert.

Which may explain why what originated innocently as a lovesick sailor’s calypso lament to a bartender named Louie morphed into the incoherent, three-chord garage-band cult classic by the Kingsmen that sold millions of copies, spawned countless cover versions and variations, was banned in Indiana, prompted the F.B.I. to investigate whether the song was secretly obscene, provoked a legal battle and became what Frank Zappa called “an archetypal American musical icon.”

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Joshua Fishman (1926-2015)

Joshua Fishman, a founder of the field of the sociology of language and a highly influential scholar of language planning and bilingual education, died last night at his home in the Bronx at the age of 88.

The following remembrance, written by Ofelia García (Professor in the Ph.D. programs of Urban Education and of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York), has been shared on Facebook and the LINGUIST List.

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Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015)

Suzette Haden Elgin, a linguist and feminist science fiction writer, died on January 27 at the age of 78. From io9:

Suzette Haden Elgin, who died last week, was a pioneer of using linguistics in science fiction, creating a whole constructed language in her novel Native Tongue. She was a giant of feminist SF. And she helped bring SF poetry to prominence, while also teaching us to defend ourselves with wit rather than bile.

Elgin had a PhD in linguistics, so it's no surprise that her Native Tongue book trilogy is all about language. The book takes place in a dystopian future, where women have been stripped of all rights when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was repealed in 1996. A group of women, who work as part of a corps of linguists who help to communicate with alien races, develop a new secret language for women to use as part of their resistance to their oppression. This language is called Láadan, and Elgin has a whole vocabulary and syntax on her website.

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R.I.P. Emmon Bach

Emmon Bach died at home in Oxford on November 28 of pneumonia-induced sudden respiratory failure. Emmon was born on June 12, 1929, in Kumamoto, Japan, the youngest of six children of Danish missionary parents Ditlev Gotthard Monrad Bach and Ellen Sigrid Bach who moved with their family from Japan to the U.S. in 1941, where he grew up in Fresno and Boulder. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Germanic Studies in 1959; his dissertation was Patterns of Syntax in Hoelderlin’s Poems. He taught at the University of Texas from 1959 to 1972, first in the German Department and then in Linguistics, then at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY in 1972–73. From 1973 until his retirement in 1992 he was Professor of Linguistics, and then Sapir Professor of Linguistics, at UMass Amherst, where he served as Department Head from 1977 until 1985. Starting a few years after his retirement from UMass, he held an appointment as a Professorial Research Associate at SOAS (University of London), where he taught semantics and field methods. And in 2007 he became affiliated with Oxford University, where he gave graduate lectures in Semantics and participated in the Syntax Working Group.

He was President of the Linguistic Society of America in 1996 and President of SSILA, the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas, this year.

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RIP Frank Mankiewicz, coiner of "retronym"

Frank Mankiewicz at DARE press conferenceFrom the New York Times obituary for Frank Mankiewicz (son of Herman, nephew of Joseph):

Frank Mankiewicz, a writer and Democratic political strategist who was Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary, directed Senator George S. McGovern’s losing 1972 presidential campaign and for six years was the president of National Public Radio, died Thursday at a hospital in Washington. He was 90.

Mankiewicz was also a bit of wordsmith and coined a useful word now found in many dictionaries: retronym, defined by the OED as "a neologism created for an existing object or concept because the exact meaning of the original term used for it has become ambiguous (usually as a result of a new development, technological advance, etc.)."

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Geoffrey Leech, 1936-2014

Geoffrey Leech, one of the giants of corpus-based computational linguistics, passed away yesterday. With the death of Chuck Fillmore in February, the field has lost two of its pillars this year.

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James Higginbotham, 1941-2014

James Higginbotham, professor of philosophy and linguistics at USC, died on Friday at the age of 72. USC News details his professional career, which straddled the disciplinary boundary between philosophy of language and theoretical linguistics.

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Charles J. Fillmore

Charles J. (Chuck) Fillmore died last week. Lily Wong Fillmore asked me to prepare some brief remarks for the press. Here they are.

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