Archive for Obituaries

Tribute: Burton Watson, 1925 – 2017

During the second half of the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first century, Burton Watson translated a wide range of works of premodern Chinese literature into highly readable, reliable English. His numerous published translations span the gamut of Chinese texts from history to poetry, prose, philosophy, and religion.  He was also an accomplished translator from Japanese, especially of poetry and religious literature.

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R.I.P. Osamu Fujimura (1927-2017)

In 1975, Osamu Fujimura hired me as a Member of Technical Staff in his new Linguistics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J.  I spent 15 formative years there, and I owe a great deal to the environment that he created.

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Irwin Corey, R.I.P.

On Monday, Irwin Corey, the world's foremost authority, died at the age of 102. A characteristic clip from his later years:

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Zhou Youguang 1906-2017

Zhou xiansheng,

You were my dear friend for decades.  I wish that you had gone on living forever.  You will be sorely missed, but yours was a life well lived.

As the "Father of Pinyin", you have had an enormous impact on education and culture in China.  After you passed the century mark, you spoke out courageously in favor of democracy and reform.

Now, one day after your 111th birthday, you have departed, but you will always be in our hearts, brimming with light, as your name suggests.



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Lu Gusun, lexicographer and Shakespeare scholar (1940-2016)

Among many other accounts in English and in Chinese of Lu Gusun's 陆谷孙 passing on July 28, there are two articles in Shanghai Daily that are worthy of mention.  Yesterday, there was an initial, brief announcement,

"Noted English literature professor Lu Gusun passes away at 76" (7/28/16) by Chen Huizhi.

Today, there is a much longer article by Chen Huizhi and Wang Yanlin, "Lu Gusun, celebrated professor and lexicographer, dies aged 76" (7/29/16).

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R.I.P. Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia died this weekend at the age of 79. The impact of his life and death has already been widely discussed: see e.g. "The Death of Justice Scalia: Reactions and Analysis", NYT; Rick Hasen, "Justice Scalia’s Death and Implications for the 2016 Election, the Supreme Court and the Nation", Election Law Blog 2/13/2016; Ross Douthat, "Antonin Scalia, Conservative Legal Giant", NYT 2/13/2016; Nolan McCaskill, "The 11 most memorable Scalia quotes", Politico 2/14/2016; etc.

Here at Language Log, we've had multiple occasions over the years to discuss Justice Scalia's theories of linguistic interpretation in general, his opinions about usage, and a few of his own usages:

"Scalia on the meaning of meaning", 10/29/2005
"Is marriage similar or identical to itself?", 11/2/2005
"A result that no sensible person could have intended", 12/8/2005
"Everything is too appropriate these days", 4/5/2006
"Scalia's 'buddy-buddy' contractions", 5/12/2008
"The meaning of meaning: Fish v. Scalia", 1/4/2011
"Justice Breyer, Professor Austin, and the Meaning of 'Any'", 7/6/2011
"Scalia and Garner on legal interpretation", 7/17/2012
"Scalia's argle-bargle", 6/27/2013
"What did Justice Scalia mean?", 10/7/2013
"Antonin and Beppe", 3/4/2014

My personal favorites among Scalia's opinions are his dissent in Smith v. United States (91-8674) and his concurrent opinion in California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement v. Dillingham Construction (95-789), which brilliantly apply and simultaneously subvert his textualist theory of legal interpretation; and his response to those who questioned his impartiality.


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R.I.P. John Holm (1943-2015)

Today's New York Times includes an obituary for the pioneering creolist John Holm, with some remembrances from our own Sally Thomason.

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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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