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12. Valedictory

Professor Otto Nekitel
Sat, 15 Sep 2001

It is our duty to report the sudden death from a massive heart attack of Professor Otto Nekitel of the University of Papua New Guinea.

Professor Otto Ignatius Soko'um Manganau Nekitel, born on 12.12.1949, who was a native speaker of Abu' Arapesh, was the first indigenous linguist in Papua New Guinea to receive his PhD in linguistics (from the Australian National University in 1985).

He did insightful work on the noun classes of Abu' Arapesh and on sociolinguistic issues concerning the indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea. He was an intellectual leader of his people, and his untimely death will leave a gap that will be impossible to fill. We deeply mourn him.

Alexandra (Sasha) Aikhenvald (Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, La Trobe University, Australia)
Pauline A. Luma Laki (Research Centre for Linguistic Typology and University of Papua New Guinea)

Professor Kenneth Hale

We are sorry to announce that Ken, who was the focus of our cover feature in the last issue succumbed to cancer on 8 October 2001.

He is celebrated in special set of web pages from 1999, written in honour of his retirement at MIT: A tribute to Ken Hale"

David Nash, at Australian National University, is maintaining a page at his website titled In Memoriam Ken Hale 1934-2001. It has links to the texts of numerous obituaries and tributes. The URL is:

The VII Encuentro Internacional de Linguistica en el Noroeste (Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, 13-15 November, 2002) is now being dedicated to his memory: for more details contact Zarina Estrada F. zarina(at) or fax +52 (662) 592102

The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) Executive Committee has voted to establish the Ken Hale Prize to recognize outstanding work and commitment to the documentation and preservation of indigenous languages. The recipient--who can be a native speaker, a community-based linguist, an academic specialist, or a group or organization--will be honored not for a specific achievement but for a body of work in the service of preserving language diversity. The first award will be made at the SSILA meeting next November. A full announcement, including the nomination procedure, will appear in the next SSILA Bulletin. Otherwise contact Victor Golla at

Professor Stephen Wurm

The cause of endangered languages has lost one of its greatest academic champions, Professor Stephen Wurm, of the Australian National University’s Research School of Pacific Studies, who died in Canberra on 24th October.

Stephen was immersed in languages from an early age, and his background on one of the world’s linguistic fault-lines seems to have propelled him into the career he chose and the interests he developed. He was born on 19th August 1922 in Budapest, into a bilingual family; his father, who died before he was born, had been a German speaker, his mother Hungarian. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Vienna. The family was comfortably off and culturally accomplished. The Anschluss of Austria with Germany coincided with the start of Stephen’s tertiary education, which, being stateless and thus not liable for military service, he was able to continue through the war years. He graduated in 1944 from the University of Vienna with a PhD in Oriental languages and anthropology. In that year he also met his wife-to-be, Helen Groger, who came to share the rest of his life with him.

Stephen’s first academic posting was as a lecturer in Altaic linguistics at the University of Vienna (1945-1951). Yet even at that early time and great distance, his interest in the languages of the New Guinea area was burgeoning. Yet his next posting took him in another direction: helping to set up the Central Asian Research Institute in Britain. In 1954, however, the opportunity came for a research fellowship in Oceanic Linguistics in the Anthropology Department at Sydney University. Three years later came his first posting in Canberra, as Senior Fellow in Linguistics, and ANU was to remain his base for the rest of his life.

The first of his many linguistic expeditions to New Guinea came in 1958. At that time the linguistic diversity of New Guinea was only just coming to be appreciated, and Stephen established the identity of a large number of Highland languages.

Australia’s own languages were also the subject of Stephen’s attention; in 1961 he was a founder member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. He was also first elected President of the Linguistic Society of Australia. From 1967 he represented Australia on the UNESCO permanent committee of linguists – an association which ultimately led to his editing the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages. And by 1968 he was the first Professor of Linguistics at ANU.

The nineteen-seventies were a period of intense research activity for Stephen, concentrating on New Guinea: the result was three large volumes of New Guinea area languages and language study. This work necessitated a great deal of mapping of previously uncharted linguistic territory, so it was natural that linguistic mapping became a central feature of the work of his department. The work diversified: the Language Atlas of China was followed by the huge Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific; the section on Australasia and the Pacific in the Atlas of the World’s Languages, through which I had the pleasure of coming to know him, and latterly the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing. Stephen was a natural choice for me to deal with the Pacific region when I came to take on the editorship of the Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages, and though the volume is still to appear, it was typical of Stephen that he had already edited and revised his own section way ahead of schedule. And these are only a few illustrations of his long and pioneering career in logging and mapping the world’s imperilled languages.

Stephen was born and grew up stateless, but he became an Australian citizen in 1957 and remained committed to that country’s life – not just the life of its European settler community but its deep and ageless indigenous cultural and linguistic life – for the remainder of his days. Christopher Moseley

Professor Jingwen Zhong

We are sorry to be the bearers of sad news, but our leading folklorist Jingwen Zhong, one of the founders of Chinese Folklore, the president of National Folklore Society of China, Professor of Folklore at Beijing Normal University passed away at 00:01 am, on January 10th, 2002, at the age of 100. We are relieved that his passing was peaceful at Beijing Friendship Hospital.

The Society mourns our founder. As many of you know, even more than a poet, a prose writer, an educationist, or a scholar, Professor Zhong was a great human being and a master of folklore studies and teaching whose kindness and wisdom helped an innumerable number of students and folklore fellows in China and beyond China. The mission to which he dedicated his whole life was to gain a better understanding of the folk cultures, to promote oral traditions, and to set up the Chinese School of Folklore in the context of international academic discourses.



Together with the students and faculty of Beijing Normal University, the NFSC will do its best to continue the great course Professor Zhong set up along with the pioneers, to which he made tremendous efforts to explore, to maintain, and to develop in the past 80 years.

A memorial service was held at the first Memorial Hall in Beijing Babaoshan Cemetery on Friday, Jan 18th, at 10:00am.

Brief Biography of Professor Jingwen Zhong He Xuejun, hanabi(at) and Bamo Qubumo, bmqbm(at)

Jingwen Zhong, Professor of Folklore at Beijing Normal University, one of the founders of Chinese Folklore, the nation's leading authority on teaching of Folk Literature and Folk Arts, and also a poet, prose writer, and educator, passed away from the infirmities of age at 00:01 am, on January 10th, 2002, at Beijing Friendship Hospital. He was 100 years old (according to the Chinese traditional way of age counting).

Jingwen Zhong was born on March 20th, 1903, in Haifeng County, Guangdong Province. He graduated from Lu'an Normal School in 1922, joined Zhongshan University faculty in 1927, where he organized the Folklore Society along with historian Gu Jiegang, and edited Folk Literature and Arts, Folklore Weekly, and a series of folkloristic publications. Zhong become a faculty member at Zhejiang Univeristy in 1928, where he edited Folk Monthly, Selected Essays on Folklore, and other publications. Zhong later went on to be a visiting scholar at Waseda University in Japan in 1934 and returned to his teaching post at Zhejiang University in 1936. During the Anti-Japanese War, he engaged himself in supporting the Movement of Resistance Against Japan and Saving the Nation from Extinction. Later on, he became a faculty member both at Zhongshan University in Guangdong, and at Dade College in Hong Kong. From 1949 to 2002, Zhong has been the leading professor of Folklore at Beijing Normal University.

Beloved by generations of BNU students, Zhong acted as Dean of Teaching Affairs, Director of the Scientific Research Division, Chair of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Director of the Folk Literature Program, and Director of the Institute of Chinese Folk Culture Studies. At the same time, Zhong was also an Honorary Member of the Chinese Association of Artists, acted as Chairman and Honorary Chairman of Chinese Society of Folk Artists, as President and Honorary President of the National Folklore Society of China, and as the vice Chairman of the Chinese Society of Traditional Poetry.

As one of the founders and pioneers of Chinese Folklore and Chinese Folk Literature and Arts, Professor Zhong worked hard in the field for 80 years, devoting himself to his beloved mission of folkloristic research and teaching. In 1950, professor Zhong and his colleagues broke new ground to establish the Chinese Society for Folk Literature and Arts; In 1953, he began as core advisor instructing graduate students majoring in Folk Literature. In 1955, through his great efforts, the first Center was established for teaching Folk Literature at BNU; In 1981, under his leadership, Folk Literature was formally approved as the first Ph. D. Program by the Ministry of Education; it became a core discipline in national higher education in 1988, and also was designated as one of the key disciplines of the "211 Educational Projects." Professor Zhong put immense effort into the disciplinary construction of Chinese Folklore and Folk Literature and Arts, and educated generations of professional scholars in the field of Chinese Folklore.

Accordingly, he won honors as the "Father of Chinese Folklore", and the "People's Scholar." The Folklore Program at BNU under his leadership has been regarded as "a cradle of professional training in Chinese folkloristic research." Professor Zhong won a great number of honors including National Labor Model and National Outstanding Teacher, and became a representative figure both in universities and in academic fields.

During his 80 years of teaching and research, Professor Zhong was a significant force in the development of Chinese Folklore, and played a major role in the creation of the discipline of Chinese Folk Literature and Arts. Since 1997, in particular, Professor Zhong, although approaching the age of 100, continued to lead and make great efforts to have Chinese Folk Literature established as a core discipline at the national level: he took charge of the national key projects Introduction to Folklore and History of Chinese Folklore, funded by the National Fund for Social Sciences; set forth a new theory of "establishing the Chinese school of folklore" and brought a vital force to this old field in China; organized international and nationwide conferences on folklore studies; and served as chief editor for Collections of Chinese Folk Literature. Jingwen Zhong was the author of numerous case studies and books, including Folkloristic Culturology: Main Ideas and Formations, Studies of Folk Literary Criticism and its History, and Collected Academic Essays of Jingwen Zhong. Through teaching two Ph.D. core courses--Chinese Folklore and History of Chinese Folklore--in person, he never stopped instructing his 12 Ph. D. Students and several visiting scholars until a few days before he died. Under his guidance, the folklore program at BNU has remained at the forefront of the discipline in China, and won a great reputation internationally. The recipient of numerous awards, Jingwen Zhong received the nation's highest accolade, the Mountain Flower Award, in 2001.

Beyond folklore, Professor Zhong was also recognized as an outstanding prose writer, and important critic in the modern history of Chinese Literature. He was a brilliant poet, well-known for his profound knowledge of Chinese poetics and passionate inspiration from the love for life itself. As his many readers agree, he never lost the full-bodied disposition and passion of being a poet. He continued to write, to recite, and to offer new creations in couplets, prose, and poetry until the last few months of his life.

Professor Zhong personified the mission of establishing the School of Chinese Folklore both through research and teaching. His numerous works, in our sight, embodied his towering stature, and his domestic and international students are spread throughout the world. As his loss is immense for the cultural, educational, and academic fields the memory of his presence and his achievements is equally so. As one of the generation of great masters, his insightful thoughts on Chinese folklore, his great contribution to the development of scholarship, and his high and upright character, integrated with his poet's stature, will live forever and will be carried forward by coming generations of students and scholars who benefited so much from his learning and wisdom.

Be immortal, Professor Jingwen Zhong!

The Committee of Memory Service for Professor Jingwen Zhong

Contact information:
Office of the President, Beijing Normal Univ.: tel.+86-10-62207960, fax-62200074
Office of the Chair of Department of Chinese Language and Literature:
tel.: +86-10-62208277, fax: -62205592