- February 26, 2002 Jerrold J. Katz, 69, Linguistics Expert and CUNY Professor STUART LAVIETES Jerrold J. Katz, a philosopher of language who helped establishMessage 1 of 10 , Feb 28, 2002View Source
February 26, 2002
Jerrold J. Katz, 69, Linguistics Expert and CUNY Professor
Jerrold J. Katz, a philosopher of language who helped establish the reputation of the graduate philosophy program of the City University of New York, died on Feb. 7 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He was 69.
The cause was bladder cancer, the university announced.
Dr. Katz, a professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Graduate Center of CUNY, began his teaching career at M.I.T. in 1963. He contributed to the development of a contemporary philosophy of language introduced by his colleague at the institute, Noam Chomsky.
In his book "Semantic Theory" (Harper & Row, 1972), he helped define the relationship between syntax (word arrangement) and semantics (meaning).
He later rejected the Chomskyan approach, which treated linguistics as a branch of psychology. In books like "Language and Other Abstract Objects" (Rowan & Littlefield, 1981), he explored the analogy between linguistics and mathematics and worked to establish a scientific approach to meaning.
Jerrold Jacob Katz was born July 14, 1932, in Washington. In 1954, he got his bachelor's degree from George Washington University. After serving in the Army Counterintelligence Corps from 1954 to 1956, he earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1960. His career at CUNY began in 1975.
He is survived by his wife, Virginia Valian, a professor of psychology and linguistics at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, and two children from an earlier marriage, Seth and Jesse Katz.
Dr. Katz's final book, "Sense, Reference and Philosophy," will be published posthumously by the Oxford University Press. Dr. Katz signed the contract with the publisher the day before his death.
- March 14, 2002 Sir Raymond Firth, Expert on Polynesia Life, 100, Dies By ERIC NAGOURNEY Sir Raymond Firth, an anthropologist who wrote extensively on theMessage 2 of 10 , Mar 14 9:18 AMView Source
March 14, 2002
Sir Raymond Firth, Expert on Polynesia Life, 100, Dies
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Sir Raymond Firth, an anthropologist who wrote extensively on the cultures of remote Polynesian islands and was noted for his close attention to scientific evidence, died on Feb. 22 in London. He was 100.
Sir Raymond began his fieldwork in Polynesia in the 1920's and remained fairly active until his death, making him a force in anthropology for about 80 years.
During that period, colleagues said, as competing ideologies rose and fell among anthropologists and schisms cleaved the field, he held fast to the notion that one of the most important things anthropologists could do was begin by simply making careful observations of the world about them.
"Many of us were enthusiasts for some system or other - Marxism, structuralism, psychoanalysis," Prof. John Davis, a former student of Sir Raymond's at the London School of Economics, wrote two years ago. "The corridors of L.S.E. echoed to the pitter-patter of graduate students bubbling over with excitement at the possibility of applying some newly acquired idea to anthropology. Firth was gently resistant."
Sir Raymond's own background was in economics, and he drew heavily on that field when making his own analysis of cultures like that of the fishermen in Malaya, one of the two areas of study for which he was best known. The other was Tikopia, an atoll in the Solomon Islands that he chronicled extensively in nine books, including the 1963 work "We, the Tikopia."
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, on March 25, 1901, Raymond William Firth traced his interest in Polynesian culture to his birthplace. Early on he studied the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Then in 1924 he enrolled in the London School of Economics, where he came into the orbit of the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.
Four years later, Dr. Firth made his first visit to Tikopia. At the time, Tikopia was a remote island, seldom visited, of about 1,200 inhabitants, who survived primarily through fishing and agriculture. He returned several times over the next decades.
Sir Raymond was described as one of the first anthropologists to rely heavily on scientific evidence. His writings, praised for their clarity and lack of jargon, were credited with inspiring others outside the field to try their hands at anthropology.
He closely studied the Tikopians' social structures and religious beliefs, as well as the physical surroundings and the way that environment influenced the daily habits of the people.
"He knew, I think, every little stone," said Dr. Sutti Ortiz, a former student of Dr. Firth's who now teaches at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Richard Fardon, chairman of the Association of Social Anthropologists, a British group of which Sir Raymond was life president, credited Sir Raymond with setting a new standard for documentation.
Sir Raymond was knighted in 1973.
His wife, Rosemary, also an anthropologist, died last year. He is survived by a son, Hugh.
Over the years, as theorists came to hold greater sway over anthropology, Sir Raymond's approach - or at least his detractors' perception of it - came into some disfavor. "His contemporaries mocked his directness, his failure to abstract and to discover social structure," wrote Professor Davis, the former student, now warden of All Souls College at Oxford.
Supporters argue that Sir Raymond did in fact advance theories but built them from the ground up rather than impose them on the cultures he studied. "He wasn't a mindless empiricist and collector of facts," Dr. Fardon said. "He was a believer that you had better get the facts straight before you can do anything else."
- March 11, 2003 José Márcio Ayres Dies at 49; Saved Heart of the Amazon By WOLFGANG SAXON José Márcio Ayres, a zoologist who sought to save large swaths ofMessage 3 of 10 , Mar 11 9:45 AMView Source
March 11, 2003
José Márcio Ayres Dies at 49; Saved Heart of the Amazon
By WOLFGANG SAXON
José Márcio Ayres, a zoologist who sought to save large swaths of rain forest in the Amazon Basin by enlisting the self-interest of its indigenous people in the effort, died on Friday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 49 and lived most of the time in Belém, his native city, at the mouth of the Amazon.
The cause was lung cancer, said the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he was the senior conservation zoologist. The society operates New York City zoos, the New York Aquarium and more than 350 conservation projects in 53 countries.
Dr. Ayres coordinated the creation of a protected zone bigger than all of Costa Rica, in the heart of the Amazon. Its more than 20,000 square miles teem with thousands of species of fish and birds, with local people benefiting from their survival and having a say in how to assure it.
Dr. Ayres, who held the society's Carter chair in rain forest ecology, set up the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in 1996, followed by the Amanã Sustainable Development Reserve next to it two years later. The process involved coordinating the efforts of the wildlife society, the local Brazilian state and the actual residents of the area: in contrast to traditional national parks, the reserves encouraged its dwellers to stay as custodians.
A scientific team assembled by Dr. Ayres delineated protected zones for fish to spawn, others for commercial fisheries and some for catching fish for subsistence only. Local residents became their co-managers.
The two reserves, which were quickly recognized by the Brazilian government, inhibited poaching and restocked valuable food fish and wildlife. In 1998, the government linked both reserves to Jaú National Park, thus protecting more than 22,000 square miles of unbroken habitat in all.
José Márcio Ayres found his avocation at 19 in a German zoo where he came face to face with another denizen of the Amazon, a rare uakari monkey, with white hair and a bald, bright red pate. He decided to learn all about this fellow Brazilian.
He received a bachelor's degree in biology in 1976 and a master's in primate socioecology in 1981 at the University of São Paulo. He worked at the São Paulo Zoo and at the National Institute for Amazonian Research, investigating the socioecology of the region's primates.
He received his doctorate in primatology at Cambridge in 1986 with a thesis "The White Uakaris and the Amazonian Flooded Forest."
He joined what was still the New York Zoological Society in 1990. In 1992 he became senior zoologist and coordinator of its Brazil program, working with Brazilian national and Amazon state research institutions and as general director of the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development.
He was also an adjunct professor for the New York Consortium for Evolutionary Primatology, a joint undertaking of Columbia, New York University, the American Museum of Natural History, the State and City Universities of New York and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Dr. Ayres is survived by his wife, Carolina Diniz Ayres; two sons, Daniel and Lucas; his parents, Manuel and Iza Ayres of Belém; a brother, also Manuel, of Rio de Janeiro; and a sister, Helena Ayres of Belém.
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- May 12, 2003 Geoffrey Bardon, Advocate of Aboriginal Art, Dies at 63 By JOHN SHAW SYDNEY, Australia, May 11 - Geoffrey Bardon, the painter and teacher creditedMessage 4 of 10 , May 13, 2003View Source
May 12, 2003
Geoffrey Bardon, Advocate of Aboriginal Art, Dies at 63
By JOHN SHAW
SYDNEY, Australia, May 11 — Geoffrey Bardon, the painter and teacher credited with inspiring Australian aborigines to depict their ancient culture in ways that could be shown and sold to the world, died Tuesday in Taree, a coastal town 235 miles north of here where he lived. He was 63.
Family members said he had suffered from cancer for six months.
Mr. Bardon encouraged tribal artists of the desert peoples of central Australia to transfer their vivid images of ancestral times from sand and rock drawings and body decoration to paintings in acrylics on hardboard and canvas, thus making them permanent and portable.
This collaboration in the 1970's in Papunya, a remote settlement of 1,400 dispossessed aborigines, was the catalyst for the evolution of a thriving, Australia-wide indigenous art movement. The art has won international recognition and now commands high prices from leading galleries and private collectors and investors, many of them in the United States.
When Mr. Bardon, a 30-year-old artist and elementary school teacher, was assigned in 1970 to Papunya, a government barracks for blacks 150 miles west of the railhead of Alice Springs in central Australia, it was, he wrote later, "like a hidden place, unknown on maps, considered by officials as a problem place."
Papunya, established in 1960 as an official "assimilation" center for tribes forced from their traditional lands, was, wrote Mr. Bardon, "a community in distress, oppressed by exile, a place of emotional loss and waste."
Learning the local language and winning the confidence of his pupils, and then their parents, he made it a cradle for the preservation and promotion of indigenous art.
In interviews at a definitive exhibition of Papunya painting in Sydney two years ago, Mr. Bardon recalled asking his pupils to transfer images of the honey-ant, a tribal totem, from sand drawings to a school wall, using paints and brushes he donated.
The children found the mural project too large for them, but elders came forward to complete it. Over the next two years Papunya artists produced 500 paintings, selling them through a cooperative organized by Mr. Bardon and owned by the painters.
He noted the "intensive level of intuitive concentration" and "a tremulous illusion" in the styles of the painters, notably those of the Tjapaltjarri, Tjupurrula and Tjungurrayi families who later became the best known of the desert painters.
Anthropologists had long studied Australia's past indigenous art. Mr. Bardon kindled its revival, particularly in depicting narratives of "the Dreaming," a legendary era comparable to the creation and genesis stories in other beliefs.
He left Papunya in 1972 but maintained close contact, writing books and making film documentaries about the artistic movement he helped create.
At his death he had just completed a major book on his years at Papunya, which is to be published next year.
He is survived by his wife, Dorn, and their sons, Michael and James.
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- June 1, 2003 Thomas Odhiambo, 72, Scientist Who Helped Africa s Farmers, Dies By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 - Thomas R. Odhiambo, the KenyanMessage 5 of 10 , Jun 2, 2003View Source
June 1, 2003
Thomas Odhiambo, 72, Scientist Who Helped Africa's Farmers, Dies
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 — Thomas R. Odhiambo, the Kenyan scientist who founded an international insect research center renowned for giving African farmers low-cost solutions for pest control, died here on Monday. He was 72.
The cause was liver cancer, said his physician, G. B. A. Okelo.
Dr. Odhiambo, a Cambridge-educated entomologist, founded what became the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in 1967 at the University of Nairobi, where he taught. The center was started to help African farmers combat harmful insects.
During his 25-year tenure as director, the center became an independent research organization where more than 150 African scientists were trained under Dr. Odhiambo's vision of development in Africa through scientific advancement, especially insect control.
Dr. Odhiambo was also a pioneer in researching how to control insects without using synthetic chemicals, said the center's current director, Hans Herren.
"He recognized that this movement, which began in Europe and America, would be essential to assisting Africa," Mr. Herren said, "by not burdening the environment with chemicals."
Dr. Odhiambo also founded the African Academy of Sciences in 1985.
In 1987, he and the former president of Senegal, Abdou Diouf, were the first recipients of the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger. The prize is given by The Hunger Project, which is based in New York.
He was also won the Albert Einstein Medal in 1979 and an honorary doctorate of sciences from the University of Oslo in 1986.
Dr. Odhiambo is survived by two wives and six children.
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- July 21, 2003 Barbara Lazarus, Educational Anthropologist, Dies at 57 By KAREN W. ARENSON Barbara B. Lazarus, an educational anthropologist who studiedMessage 6 of 10 , Jul 21, 2003View Source
July 21, 2003
Barbara Lazarus, Educational Anthropologist, Dies at 57
By KAREN W. ARENSON
Barbara B. Lazarus, an educational anthropologist who studied barriers to women entering science and engineering and created programs to overcome them, died last Tuesday in Pittsburgh. She was 57.
The cause was cancer, her husband, Marvin Sirbu, said.
Dr. Lazarus, who was associate provost for academic affairs at Carnegie Mellon University, was recognized for her creative methods of increasing the number of women in science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere. Her programs became models for other colleges, which often sought her help.
She also helped women's colleges in Asia find ways to help their graduates enter the work force. She combined her professional knowledge of the workplace with her personal experience with cancer — she was first diagnosed in her early 30's — to write about the problems cancer survivors face in their careers.
Dr. Lazarus started her work in Providence, R.I., in the early 1970's, developing materials to help telephone counselors advise women who wanted to enter or re-enter the work force. Later, as director of the Center for Women's Careers at Wellesley College, she adopted similar techniques to offer phone counseling to alumni who wanted help with their careers.
She also dreamed up a program now known as "Explanatoids" — signs and videos at playgrounds, amusement parks and other sites to explain the science of everything from roller coasters to the curve balls being thrown at PNC Park, where the Pirates play.
The program will be extended to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington this fall.
Dr. Lazarus is survived by her husband; two children, Margaret Ann Lazarus Sirbu and Benjamin James Lazarus Sirbu; her parents, David and Betty Lazarus of Urbana, Ill., and Chilmark, Mass.; two brothers, William of Washington and Richard of Cabin John, Md.; and a sister, Mary Ann Lazarus of St. Louis.
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- January 31, 2004 Egon Mayer, Sociologist Who Dealt With Jewish Issues, Dies at 59 By JOSEPH BERGER Egon Mayer, a Hungarian immigrant who became one of theMessage 7 of 10 , Jan 31, 2004View Source
January 31, 2004
Egon Mayer, Sociologist Who Dealt With Jewish Issues, Dies at 59
By JOSEPH BERGER
Egon Mayer, a Hungarian immigrant who became one of the leading sociologists of American Jewry, studying the intricate variety of religious observance and interfaith marriage, died yesterday at his home in Laurel Hollow, N.Y. He was 59.
The cause was cancer of the gall bladder said his wife, Marcia Kramer Mayer.
Dr. Mayer, who managed to sustain an old-world bonhomie in tackling some of the most contentious issues in modern Jewish life, spent more than a quarter century studying the religious habits of Jews. In surveys for organizations like the American Jewish Committee, or in studies he did as a professor at Brooklyn College and the City University's Graduate Center, he counted specifics, like how many Jews were lighting candles on Friday nights, or giving their children bar mitzvahs, or attending synagogues.
Although the results sometimes disheartened the most observant Jews, Dr. Mayer seemed to be reassured by the enduring connection even secular Jews found to their identity. But no topic was more difficult than interfaith marriage, and Dr. Mayer tackled it head on.
In one interview, he reported that 37 percent of Jewish men who married for the first time in the period from 1983 to 1987 married gentiles, a sharp increase from a rate of 7 percent in 1955. "This amounts to a total demographic revolution," he said.
Dr. Mayer suggested that these findings were producing a split between lay Jews and their rabbis, with overwhelming majorities of Conservative and Reform Jews wanting rabbis to officiate at such marriages if the couple raised their children as Jewish, while the preponderance of rabbis were adamantly opposed.
Departing from his researcher's neutrality, Dr. Mayer urged Jews to welcome gentile spouses, including those who did not want to convert or whose professed Judaism did not meet the requirements of Jewish law. By doing so, he said, Jews would sustain Jewish observance in families and maintain overall Jewish population numbers even as intermarriage and a low birth rate were contributing to a decline.
His book "Love and Tradition: Marriage Between Jews and Christians" (Plenum, 1985, and Schocken, 1987) examined some of these issues.
Dr. Mayer was born in 1944 in Switzerland. His parents had arrived there as part of a group of 1,684 Hungarian Jews who were allowed by Adolf Eichmann to buy their freedom after negotiations led by Dr. Rudolf Kasztner, a rescuer of Jews from the death camps. In recent years, Dr. Mayer's research focused on the life of Dr. Kasztner, who was killed in Israel in 1957 by extremists who felt that he should not have dealt with the Nazis.
The family returned to Hungary after the war, and Dr. Mayer grew up in Budapest. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the family emigrated to the United States. Dr. Mayer lived in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and attended an Orthodox yeshiva.
He studied at Brooklyn College and the New School for Social Research, and received his doctorate in sociology from Rutgers University in 1975. He had served on Brooklyn College's faculty since 1970 and was chairman of the sociology department before he fell ill six months ago. His book "From Suburb to Shtetl" (Temple University Press, 1979) was a study of his Orthodox Borough Park neighborhood, examining how Hasidim and other Orthodox Jews adapted to modernity.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Mayer is survived by his daughter, Daphne; two stepdaughters, Rena Fox and Danielle Kramer; his mother, Hedy Mayer; and his brother, George.
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- May 23, 2004 Evon Z. Vogt Jr., Expert on Indigenous Mexican Tribe, Dies at 85 By ANAHAD O CONNOR r. Evon Z. Vogt Jr., an anthropologist whose extensiveMessage 8 of 10 , May 25, 2004View Source
May 23, 2004
Evon Z. Vogt Jr., Expert on Indigenous Mexican Tribe, Dies at 85
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
r. Evon Z. Vogt Jr., an anthropologist whose extensive fieldwork in southern Mexico helped advance the understanding of modern Maya culture, died on May 13 in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.
The cause was complications from pulmonary fibrosis, said his son Eric.
Dr. Vogt, a leading researcher on the indigenous people of southern Mexico and Guatemala, believed that studying a community of people required adopting their way of life. Although not the first researcher to embrace this idea, Dr. Vogt developed a systematic approach and trained generations of students who went on to become some of today's leading anthropologists.
Beginning in the late 1950's, Dr. Vogt, who taught at Harvard, made countless trips to Chiapas, a region in Mexico where he studied a modern-day Maya tribe.
Dr. Vogt took his family with him. He quickly ingratiated himself with the local Zinacantan people, learning to speak Tzotzil, the local dialect, and earning the nickname Totik Shune, meaning roughly "Sir Evon."
For 20 years, Dr. Vogt and his wife, Catherine C. Hiller Vogt, lived part of the year with their four children among the Zinacantans in a small village with no running water.
With help from his wife, Dr. Vogt ran a program that placed six Harvard students in rural agricultural hamlets in southern Mexico every summer from 1957 until 1982.
"They introduced students to the field and made sure that they learned how to settle down, make friends with the Maya and put together an understanding of their way of life," said Dr. David Maybury-Lewis, a professor of anthropology at Harvard and a colleague of Dr. Vogt. "The idea was to study the people as if they were your neighbors, not some foreign specimen."
Dr. Vogt's intimate knowledge of modern Maya Indians also helped other anthropologists better understand ancient Maya culture. Because of his work, said Dr. David Stuart, a senior lecturer in anthropology at Harvard, the Zinacantan people "became one of the most well-studied communities in all of anthropology."
Born in 1918 in Gallup, N.M., Evon Zartman Vogt Jr. earned his undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago. In World War II, he was an air combat intelligence officer, helping pilots locate enemy submarines. He later did research on Navajo veterans who had been "code talkers" in the South Pacific.
He joined the faculty at Harvard in 1948, eventually becoming chairman of the anthropology department. He retired in 1990.
He published 19 books and received numerous honors, including the Order of the Aztec Eagle from the government of Mexico, its highest honor for a nonnative Mexican.
In addition to his wife and Eric, of Belmont, Mass., he is survived by two more sons, Evon Terry Z. Vogt 3rd of San Francisco, and Charles Anthony Vogt of Quito, Ecuador; a daughter, Countess Skee Teleki of Toronto; a sister, Barbara Vogt Mallery of Santa Fe, N.M.; a great-aunt, Kay Vogt Sayre, also of Sante Fe; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Ann Popplestone AAB, BA, MA
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- May 28, 2004 Djerrkura, 54, Who Led Aboriginal Rights Group, Dies By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ANBERRA, Australia, May 27 - Djerrkura, a prominent Aboriginal leaderMessage 9 of 10 , Jun 1, 2004View Source
May 28, 2004
Djerrkura, 54, Who Led Aboriginal Rights Group, Dies
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ANBERRA, Australia, May 27 — Djerrkura, a prominent Aboriginal leader who was born into traditional tribal life in northern Australia and rose to lead an elected indigenous group that helped allocate government funds, died on Wednesday at his community in Arnhem Land, east of the port city of Darwin. He was 54.
The cause was a heart attack, Australian officials announced.
His clan asked the news media to honor Aboriginal tribal culture and not print his first name or pictures of him after his death.
Mr. Djerrkura straddled the worlds of traditional Aboriginal culture and national politics. He always kept a spear by his door to protect his family at times of tribal tensions.
By birthright, he became a leader of the Wangurri clan in Arnhem Land in far northern Australia, where Aborigines live by their ancient traditions and rituals.
In 1996, by a federal government decree, he was appointed chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, an elected council established in the 1980's as a means of self-determination for indigenous people.
The conservative government chose Mr. Djerrkura from among 17 commissioners democratically elected by their Aboriginal constituents. He led the organization for three years.
Ann Popplestone AAB, BA, MA
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- William Bright, 78, Expert in Indigenous Languages, Is Dead * By MARGALIT FOXMessage 10 of 10 , Oct 23, 2006View SourceWilliam Bright, 78, Expert in Indigenous Languages, Is Dead
By MARGALIT FOX <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/margalit_fox/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
Published: October 23, 2006
William Bright, an internationally renowned linguist who spent more than half a century inventorying the vanishing riches of the indigenous languages of the United States, died on Oct. 15 in Louisville, Colo. He was 78 and lived in Boulder, Colo.
The cause was a brain tumor, said his daughter, Susie Bright, the well-known writer of erotica.
At his death, Mr. Bright was professor adjoint of linguistics at the University of Colorado <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_colorado/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , Boulder. He was also emeritus professor of linguistics and anthropology at the University of California <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_california/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , Los Angeles, where he taught from 1959 to 1988.
An authority on the native languages and cultures of California, Mr. Bright was known in particular for his work on Karuk (also spelled Karok), an American Indian language from the northwest part of the state. Shortly before his death, in recognition of his efforts to document and preserve the language, he was made an honorary member of the Karuk tribe, the first outsider to be so honored.
His books include "American Indian Linguistics and Literature" (Mouton, 1984); "A Coyote Reader" (University of California, 1993); "1,500 California Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning" (University of California, 1998); and "Native American Placenames of the United States" (University of Oklahoma <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_oklahoma/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , 2004).
Mr. Bright's approach to the study of language was one seldom seen nowadays. With the ascendance of Noam Chomsky <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/noam_chomsky/index.html?inline=nyt-per> in the late 1950's, linguistics shifted its focus from documenting language as an artifact of human culture to analyzing it as a window onto human cognition.
But to Mr. Bright, language was inseparable from its cultural context, which might include songs, poetry, stories and everyday conversation. And so, lugging unwieldy recording devices, he continued to make forays into traditional communities around the world, sitting down with native speakers and eliciting words, phrases and sentences.
Among the languages on which he worked were Nahuatl, an Aztec language of Mexico; Cakchiquel, of Guatemala; Luiseño, Ute, Wishram and Yurok, languages of the Western United States; and Lushai, Kannada, Tamil and Tulu, languages of the Indian subcontinent.
William Oliver Bright was born on Aug. 13, 1928, in Oxnard, Calif. He received a bachelor's degree in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949. After a stint in Army intelligence, he earned a doctorate in linguistics from Berkeley in 1955.
He began his fieldwork among the Karuk in 1949. At the time, their language was a tattered remnant of its former splendor, spoken by just a handful of elders. Since encounters with Europeans had rarely ended well for the Karuk, the community had little reason to welcome an outsider.
But Bill Bright was deferential, curious and, at 21, scarcely more than a boy. He was also visibly homesick. The Karuk grandmothers took him in, baking him cookies and cakes and sharing their language. They named him Uhyanapatanvaanich, "little word-asker."
In 1957, Mr. Bright published "The Karok Language" (University of California), a detailed description of the language and its structure. Last year, the tribe published a Karuk dictionary, compiled by Mr. Bright and Susan Gehr. Today, Karuk children learn the language in tribal schools.
Mr. Bright was divorced twice and widowed twice. From his first marriage, he is survived by his daughter, Susannah (known as Susie), of Santa Cruz, Calif. Also surviving are his wife, Lise Menn, a professor of linguistics at the University of Colorado; two stepsons, Stephen Menn of Montreal and Joseph Menn of Los Angeles; one grandchild; and two step-grandchildren.
His other books include "The World's Writing Systems" (Oxford University <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/o/oxford_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , 1996), which he edited with Peter T. Daniels; and the International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (Oxford University, 1992), of which he was editor in chief. From 1966 to 1987, Mr. Bright was the editor of Language, the field's flagship journal.
The professor was also a meticulous reader of all his daughter's manuscripts. He displayed the finished products - among them "Susie Bright's Sexual State of the Union" (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and "Mommy's Little Girl: On Sex, Motherhood, Porn and Cherry Pie" (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003) - proudly on his shelves at home.
Ann Popplestone AAB, BA, MA
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