The LSA reports with regret the recent deaths of three longtime members:  Michael Clark Lambert McOmber, Nils Hasselmo, and Petr Sgall. 

 

Michal Clark Lambert McOmber 

Michael Clark Lambert McOmber, 69, passed away in his Salt Lake City residence on April 9th, 2019. Michael was born in El Cerrito, California on July 13th, 1949 to Ferryle Bryant and Merial Clark McOmber, the second of 5 siblings.

Michael studied linguistics, his fascination and dedication to the study of languages led him to receive a Bachelors degree from Brigham Young University, and to receive a Masters and Doctorate in linguistics from the University of Utah.

An active and devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Michael served a full-time mission in the Pape’ete Tahiti mission in his youth. Michael also served as a Chaplin at the prison, hoping to spread light and love to those residing there. He also greatly enjoyed serving as the ward mission leader in the Emerson Ward for 3 years. Michael will especially be remembered for the 20 years of service he spent  traveling and singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir spreading his love for people, cultures, music and the spoken across the United States, Canada and Europe. 

Most recently he was serving in the Parley’s Creek Branch and working with the missionaries that teach in Nepali, Swahili, Burmese and French. 

Michael loved people and cultures and would often meet a new friend and then bring them over to dine with his family the same night. He loved the missionaries and served with them until the very end.

Michael is survived by his beautiful wife Elva Maria of 47 years. They were sealed in the Oakland, California temple on July 22, 1972.  Also by his 4 wonderful children; Michael Jared, Melissa Kathryn, Joseph Richard and Thomas Ferryle. And 2 grandsons, Sebastian (15) and Manolo (8). 

 

Nils Hasselmo 

Hasselmo, Nils age 87, died Wednesday, January 23, 2019 after a 20-year battle with prostate cancer. Hasselmo was president of the University of Minnesota from 1988 to 1997 and served as president of the Association of American Universities from 1998-2006.

A native of Sweden, Hasselmo completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in Scandinavian languages and literature at Uppsala University in Sweden and completed his military service in the Swedish Royal Signal Corps, including officer's training. As a scholarship student in the United States in 1956-57, he received a B.A. at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. He finished a Ph.D. in linguistics from Harvard University in 1961. After teaching at Augustana College and the University of Wisconsin, Hasselmo joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1965. During the next 18 years at the University of Minnesota, he served as chair of the Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literature, director of the Center for Northwest European Language and Area Studies, associate dean and executive officer of the College of Liberal Arts, and vice president for administration and planning. In 1983, he left Minnesota to serve for five and a half years as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Arizona. Returning to the University of Minnesota as its 13th president in December 1988, Hasselmo served in this capacity until 1997. He then assumed the presidency of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an association consisting of the 62 major research universities in the United States and Canada. AAU shapes federal policy for higher education, science, and innovation. He served in that capacity in Washington DC until 2006.

He was a consultant to American and Swedish universities, non-profit organizations, and the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the United Arab Emirates. His consulting work included leadership development, board functioning, academic program creation, research advancement, and presidential evaluations. Trained in linguistics, Hasselmo's scholarly work focused on the study of bilingualism and contact linguistics, including books and articles on the Swedish language in America. He was a Fulbright-Hays scholar in Sweden and Iceland in 1968-69 and held visiting faculty appointments at American and Scandinavian universities. A vibrant and dedicated academic leader, Hasselmo served as chair of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, now the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the Big Ten Council of Presidents, and the Minnesota Higher Education Advisory Council. He was president of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, the Swedish-American Historical Society, and chairman of the Swedish Council of America, an umbrella organization with 300 affiliates. He served on the boards of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the Universities Research Association, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and the Friends of Uppsala University in North America. Hasselmo was the 1991 Swedish- American of the Year awarded by the Swedish government and the Vasa Order. Hasselmo received honors including the Royal Order of the North Star by the King of Sweden, 1973; King Carl XVI Gustaf's Bicentennial Medal in Gold, 1976; and the Sandburg Medal, 1989. He was elected to membership in Swedish scholarly societies and holds honorary doctorates from institutions including Uppsala University and Augustana College.

Nils lived a rich family life. He spent his years at the Universities of Minnesota and Arizona with his wife Patricia (nee Tillberg), whom he met at Augustana College and who died in 2000. In 2003, he married Ann Die, President Emerita of Hendrix College and President Emerita of the American Academic Leadership Institute. He is survived by his sister Ingrid Hirvonen (Juhani) in Sweden, three children Peter (Donna), Michael (Chantal), and Anna Williams (Jim), a step- daughter Meredith Levine (Aaron), six grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, and a newly arrived great-grandson. An event honoring Hasselmo is planned for late spring at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (please check back for details as updates will be provided in the online version of the obituary at startribune.com/…). Memorials/gifts requested to Augustana College at augustana.edu/… - designation "Hasselmo prize for academic pur-suit" or University of Minnesota at give.umn.edu/giveto/ HasselmoScholarship

 

Petr Sgall

 

Professor Emeritus Petr Sgall, professor of Indo-European, Czech studies, and general linguistics at Charles University in Prague, and an Honorary Member of the LSA since 2002, passed away on May 28, 2019 in Prague, the day after his 93rd birthday. 



Over a lifetime of distinguished work in theoretical, mathematical and computational linguistics, he did more than any other single person to keep the Prague School linguistic tradition alive and dynamically flourishing. He was the founder of mathematical and computational linguistics in the Czech Republic, and the principal developer of the Praguian theory of Functional Generative Description as a framework for the formal description of language, which has been applied primarily to Czech, but also to English and in typological studies of a range of languages.

Petr Sgall was born in in České Budějovice in southern 
Bohemia, but
 spent most of his
 childhood in the small 
town Ústí nad Orlicí in 
eastern Bohemia and 
lived in Prague from the time of his 
university studies.

He studied typology under Rudolf Skalička, with a PhD dissertation on the 
development of
inflection in Indo-
European languages. His habilitation thesis in 1958 was based on his post-doctoral study in Cracow on the infinitive in Old Indian; it earned him a position as docent (associate professor) of general and Indoeuropean linguistics at Charles University.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Sgall was one of the first European scholars who became familiar with the newly emerging Chomskyan generative grammar. He immediately understood the importance of an explicit description of language, but at the same time, he was concerned that the early generative approach lacked a full appreciation of the functions of language (see his analysis of Prague School functionalism in his paper in the renewed series Prague Linguistic Circle Papers, the Travaux linguistiques de Prague Vol. I (1964)). Based on the Praguian tenets, Sgall formulated and developed an original framework of generative description of language, the so-called Functional Generative Description (FGD). His papers in the early sixties and his book presenting FGD (Sgall 1967) (http://ufal.mff.cuni.cz/~sgall/doc/sgall-bibl.pdf) were the foundation stones of an original school of theoretical and computational linguistics that has been alive and flourishing in Prague since then. Sgall’s innovative approach builds on three main pillars: (i) dependency syntax, (ii) information structure as an integral part of the underlying linguistic structure, and (iii) attention to the distinction between linguistic meaning and cognitive content.

The linguistics group that was established under his leadership in 1959 flourished in an interdisciplinary environment that included both the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics until political difficulties under the Communist regime led to his removal from his post as head of the Laboratory of Algebraic Linguistics, and nearly led to his expulsion from the University and the dissolution of the linguistics group. The Laboratory was disbanded, but courageous colleagues in the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics enabled the transfer of the staff of the Laboratory to that Faculty, where it thrived and became the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics (UFAL). Throughout the difficult years from 1972 until the fall of Communism in 1989 (with gradual improvements starting in the early 1980s), Sgall helped the group maintain ties with many international colleagues and continue to develop their productive work in formal and functional linguistics and pioneering computational applications. (The author remembers from visits in 1981, 1985, and a semester in 1989 how weekly seminars were held at 5pm so that talented young colleagues who were barred from university participation could attend after finishing their work days in factories and technical institutes.)

In the post-Communist era starting in 1990, the group was able to maintain UFAL, finally with permission to teach and to have their own graduate students, and they were also able to establish the Institute of Theoretical and Computational Linguistics back in the Philosophical Faculty. They could then regularize their ties with many colleagues and programs abroad, including a cooperative computational linguistics program with Johns Hopkins University and a collaboration between the Prague Dependency Treebank and the Penn Treebank.

Also in the post-Communist era after 1989, Professor Sgall was able to travel freely, hold guest professorships at foreign universities and a fellowship semester at NIAS, and to receive some of the public recognition he long deserved. He was elected a member of Academia Europea, awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize, and received Honorary Doctorates from the Institut National des Langues Orientales in Paris and from Hamburg University. He was named an Honorary Member of the Linguistic Society of America in 2002.

Petr Sgall will be remembered with admiration, respect, and gratitude by generations of students and colleagues for his untiring and successful personal and intellectual leadership of the development of Prague School linguistics, helping it to maintain a valued place in the contemporary international linguistics world, and for his own major contributions to typological studies and to theoretical and mathematical linguistics.

An obituary written by his Prague colleagues, from which the photograph above and some parts of this text were taken, can be found at http://ufal.mff.cuni.cz/obituary-petr-sgall .