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11. Obituaries

IN MEMORIAM - Floyd Lounsbury

From (whalen(at)haskins.yale.edu) 20 May 1998:
(Syndicated from SSILA Bulletin)

It is with immense sadness that we must report the death of our friend and colleague, Floyd Lounsbury, on May 14th, 1998. Although he had been in poor health for over a year, his indomitable spirit and active research agenda led us to believe that he would pull through. His passing is a great loss to colleagues in his many fields.

Floyd was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, April 25, 1914. He served as a master sergeant in the 22nd weather squadron as a meteorologist in the Army Air Forces during World War II. He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. degree in mathematics in 1941 and an M.A. in anthropology in 1947; he received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1949 in anthropology and an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. He began teaching at Yale University in 1947, retiring in 1979 as a Sterling Professor.

A scholar in many fields, he made outstanding contributions to linguistic theory and the study of American Indian Languages, of Mayan hieroglyphic writing and of kinship systems. Among his many honors, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Endangered Language Fund, Dept. of Linguistics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.

--Doug Whalen

And we close this issue with an obituary poem.

 

 

MARSH LANGUAGES,
by Margaret Atwood

from Morning in the Burned House
(Houghton Mifflin, October 1995).

The dark soft languages are being silenced:
Mothertongue Mothertongue Mothertongue
falling one by one back into the moon.

Language of marshes,
language of the roots of rushes tangled
together in the ooze,
marrow cells twinning themselves
inside the warm core of the bone:
pathways of hidden light in the body fade and wink out.

The sibilants and gutturals,
the cave language, the half-light
forming at the back of the throat,
the moth's damp velvet moulding
the lost syllable for "I" that did not mean separate,
all are becoming sounds no longer
heard because no longer spoken,
and everything that could once be said in them has ceased to exist.

The languages of the dying suns
are themselves dying,
but even the word for this has been forgotten.
The mouth against skin, vivid and fading,
can no longer speak both cherishing and farewell.
It is now only a mouth, only skin.
There is no more longing.

Translation was never possible.
Instead there was always only
conquest, the influx
of the language of hard nouns,
the language of metal,
the language of either/or,
the one language that has eaten all the others.

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