Derek Bickerton, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, passed away on March 5, 2018 at the age of 91.
A seminal thinker and visionary, Derek laid out an important goal for himself, which he described in the introduction to The Roots of Language (1981), one of the most discussed books in the history of linguistics:
Language has made our species what it is, and until we really understand it—that is, understand what is necessary for it to be acquired and transmitted, and how it interacts with the rest of our cognitive apparatus—we cannot hope to understand ourselves. And unless we can understand ourselves, we will continue to watch in helpless frustration while the world we have created slips further and further from our control.
Derek pursued the goal of understanding language and humanity with unwavering intensity throughout his life, developing and extending his ideas in Language and Species (1990), Bastard Tongues (2008), Adam’s Tongue (2009), and More than Nature Needs (2014), as well as in numerous papers, presentations and speeches over four decades. The origin of language, the genesis of pidgins and creoles, and the nature of the genetic endowment for language were endlessly fascinating to him, and he wrote about them with ever-increasing eloquence and insight.
Derek relished disagreement and controversy, recognizing turmoil as the cost of moving forward. People listened to him, and he made a lasting difference—in linguistics and in the lives of his students and colleagues. I speak from experience in this regard. He was the first person to reach out to me when I arrived in Mānoa as a visiting colleague many years ago. During the period that our careers overlapped, I enjoyed numerous stimulating conversations with him on linguistic matters, and I cherish the memory of our social interactions as well.
No matter the turmoil in his academic endeavors, Derek enjoyed a rich family life. His remarkable and elegant wife Yvonne was the love of his life, and their synergy as a couple was evident to anyone who saw them together. Derek paid tribute to their long and happy marriage in a poem, the last few lines of which strike me as a fitting epilogue to his life.
Yet do we regret that we stayed
So long at the feast, gobbled up
All that was there for the taking?
Would we have gained by forsaking
The party early, our cup
Undrunk, our parts half-played?
No. There’s so much that we’d have lost:
Learning at last how love grows
When our animals finally sleep
Learning to savor the deep
Joy of mere closeness—God knows
Such things are worth any cost.
Following the announcement of Derek’s passing, a number of friends and colleagues have contacted the Department of Linguistics with their thoughts and remembrances, which we will share at this site.
To view remembrances on the memorial site, or to submit one of your own, please click here.
The Department of Linguistics looks forward to having Dr. James N. Collins, currently affiliated with Hebrew University of Jerusalem, join our faculty this coming Fall. Not only specializing in syntax, he also helps fulfill our vision of specializing in the languages of the vast Austronesian family (which includes the indigenous languages of Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan) and on other languages of Asia and the Pacific with his work in the Philippines and Samoa.
Welcome aboard, Dr. Collins!
Dr. Katie Drager has published a new book with Bloomsbury entitled Experimental Research Methods in Sociolinguistics.
The book’s back cover blurb is as follows:
An accessible, user-friendly guide to the variety of different experimental methods used in sociolinguistics, Experimental Research Methods in Sociolinguistics walks students through the “how-to” of experimental methods used to investigate variation in both speech production and perception. Focusing squarely on practice and application, it takes the reader from defining a research question, to choosing an appropriate framework, to completing a research project. Featuring a companion website with information on experiment-friendly software, sample experiments and suggestions for work to undertake, the book also covers:
-How to measure production and perception
-How to construct and use corpora
And the reviews:
“This promises to be a fun book about an important topic. It is most likely to be adopted as a textbook in many sociolinguistic classes, and I’m sure that sociolinguistic students throughout the world will benefit from some clear explanations about how to conduct experimental research.” – Tommaso Milani, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Head of Department, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
“The strengths include the theoretical breadth of the text, and the author’s technical expertise; in addition, the author’s undeniable ability to keep students eyes open and their minds on target, despite technical details which will follow in subsequent chapters. If one had any fears that she couldn’t carry off this textbook project, the introduction makes clear that her distinctive voice and good humor will keep readers going even in the heavy chapters … If the author manages to get this book out quickly, there will be nothing like it on the market, and no other researcher who could even come close to the breadth of coverage which her chapter headings promise.” – Malcah Yaeger-Dror, University of Arizona, USA
“It’s a potentially very useful work that collects together a number of approaches rarely considered in one place. I like the fact that it brings psycholinguistic and phonetic methods into sociolinguistics, while also ensuring that psycholinguists and phoneticians would be exposed to the kinds of questions and data central to sociolinguists.” – Paul Foukes, University of York, UK
“I would tell colleagues that this book sounds like an excellent guidebook for experimental designs. Individual chapters would be excellent readings for students, especially the suggestions of possible experiments. Chapters or the whole book would be good both as class readings and as recommended readings for Ph.D. or M.A. students who are preparing for a dissertation or thesis.” – Erik R. Thomas, North Carolina State University, USA
A new book entitled Word Hunters: Field Linguists on Fieldwork is now available for all valid UH affiliates (student, staff, and faculty). Our very own Dr. Robert Blust is featured in the book’s third chapter, titled “Historical linguistics in the raw.”
Thank you to Ph.D candidate Anna Belew for the notice! She had the following to say about the publication:
If you’re new to fieldwork and wondering what it’s really like, or if you love reading anecdotes from your fellow field linguists, good news! Hamilton just bought the ebook of a new volume called Word hunters: Field linguists on fieldwork. It’s got chapters from some of the biggest, baddest field linguists out there, including Bob. Check it out: 1) because it’s interesting, and 2) so that Hamilton will see that we actually use the books that we request they buy, and will keep buying the books we request!
(Photo courtesy of R. Blust & John Benjamins Publishing Company)
Our very own Dr. Gary Holton, who specializes in language documentation and conservation, will be the Keynote Speaker at this year’s LLL Conference “L4 : Languages, Linguistics & Literature for Life,” to be held on Saturday, April 7th. Dr. Holton’s talk is entitled, “Language Documentation: What Is It and What Is It Good for?”
Also, mahalo to Sydney Ludlow, our current MA student, who is serving as one of the Student Conference Chairs!
This 512 page workbook in historical linguistics, authored by Dr. Robert Blust, will be published by Edinburgh University Press in February, 2018. It contains 101 problems and solutions covering 5 distinct problem areas (the establishment of genetic relationship among languages, sound change, phonological reconstruction, internal reconstruction, and subgrouping). Flyers are being mailed to Dr. Blust, and should arrive soon.
2014 PhD alumna Dr. Nala Huiying Lee has been featured in the Macau News for her study on Patua, a Portuguese-Asian Creole. The language has fewer than 50 speakers, making it “severely endangered” based on the absolute amount of speakers.
The study is also published in Language Documentation & Conservation Vol. 12 (2018), pp. 53-79.
To read the full original article on the Macau News website, please click here.
Beginning in late 2017, the Fiji Times (“The First Newspaper Published in the World Every Day”) has been reprinting chapters of Albert J. Schütz’s Diaries and Correspondence of David Cargill, 1832–1843 (Australian National University Press, 1977). This book covers three main themes:
- The first deals with the Wesleyan missionaries’ conversion of the Fijians to Christianity.
- The second concentrates on linguistic matters: Developing Fijian’s unusual but efficient alphabet; writing the first grammar and dictionary of a Fijian language; discovering extensive language/dialect variation; and eventually choosing a lingua franca.
- The third describes Cargill’s extreme reaction to unimaginable “field” conditions in Tonga and Fiji, which eventually affected his professional and personal life.
Schütz is grateful to the Fiji Times editorial staff for making this book available to local readers, thus giving them easy access to an important, but mostly unknown, part of Fijian history.
Read the 9-part series:
Dr. William O’Grady and Ph.D candidate Sejung Yang, along with Dr. Changyong Yang from Jeju National University, have seen the first volume of their Jejueo textbook published on July 5, 2017. The textbook, written for Korean speakers, is the first of its kind for Jejueo, recognized by several international groups (including UNESCO, Endangered Language Group, and Ethnologue) as an independent language rather than a dialect of Korean.
The textbook is the first in a projected four-volume series. You can purchase the textbook from Kyobo (website in Korean).
For more information, including small previews of the book, please read the Center for Korean Studies article.