Eminent scholars from Botswana, Australia, Brazil and Belgium were among those selected for this signal achievement at the LSA's recent Annual Meeting. Herman Michael Batibo, Nicholas Evans, Bruna Franchetto and Liliane Haegeman were unanimously elected to this prestigious category of international membership by those in attendance at the LSA Business Meetingheld virtually on Friday, January 8, 2021.

We are pleased to publish these encomiums to accompany their election:

Professor Herman Michael Batibo, a scholar of African languages and linguistics, best known for his work on the sociolinguistics and phonology of Bantu and Khoisan languages of Botswana and Tanzania. His 2005 book, Language Decline and Death in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Challenges, is a masterful survey of the factors that impact languages on the continent. He argues that language shift in Africa is affected by factors that are less common elsewhere, with minority languages under greater pressure than perhaps any other part of the world, primarily from the more widely spoken African languages. His main research interests are the understanding and use of Africa’s dominant multilingualism and the  investigation of African language endangerment and marginalization.

Born and raised in Tanzania, Professor Batibo studied Bantu linguistics at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle where he earned his PhD in 1977 with a thesis on the morphology and phonology of his first language, Sukuma, culminating in the 1985 monograph Le kesukuma, langue bantu de Tanzanie:  phonologie et morphologie.

Professor Batibo began his teaching career at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1979, becoming Professor of African Linguistics in 1990. He moved to the University of Botswana in 1994, where he has served as Professor of African Linguistics and Head of the Department of African Languages and Literatures. He is Member of the African Academy of Languages, an Honorary Fellow of the University of London (SOAS) and was a named a Knight in the Order of Palmes Académiques by the French government for contributions to the teaching of French in Tanzania. He has held visiting professorship at SOAS, the universities of Bayreuth, Leiden, York, California at Los Angeles and the French National Research Centre. He was President of the Standing Committee of the World Congress of African Linguistics from 2000 to 2009.

Professor Nicholas Evans, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the Australian National University. He is also an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Professor Evans’ research focuses on the diversity of human language and what this can tell us about the nature of language, culture, deep history, and the possibilities of the human mind. His book Dying Words (2010) outlines the situation of endangered languages and the consequences that follow from our planet’s dwindling linguistic diversity for our understanding of the human situation. Major co-edited volumes in linguistic typology include The Oxford Handbook of Polysynthesis (2017), Insubordination (2016), and Reciprocals and Semantic Typology (2011).

Professor Evans is a fieldwork linguist who has worked in many sites in Australia, New Guinea, and the Pacific. He has published grammars of Kayardild (1995) and Bininj Gun-wok (2003) and dictionaries of Kayardild (1992) and Dalabon (2004). He is currently studying multilingual speech communities in indigenous Australia and New Guinea with a view to seeking the seeds of macro-diversity in community-level micro-diversity.

Professor Evans is deeply engaged in the communities in which he has worked, including working with community members on Native Title, vernacular literacy, and indigenous art and music. He has directed the work of indigenous scholars to the Ph.D. and postdoctoral levels. His online open-access dictionary of Nen (2019), a member of the Yam family of southern New Guinea, was produced in collaboration with the community’s Nen Language Committee.

Professor Bruna Franchetto, Full Professor in the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Anthropology (National Museum) at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), from which she received her PhD in Social Anthropology in 1986. Her linguistic and ethnological research focuses on the description, documentation, and analysis of Kuikuro, a variety of the Upper Xingu Carib language spoken in southern Amazonia, and on the oral traditions and verbal arts of the Kuikuro people. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on the phonology, morphology, syntax and verbal arts of Kuikuro and the other varieties of the Upper Xingu Carib language and has organized an extensive documentary archive on Kuikuro housed at the DoBeS Program of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. She has coordinated the Program for the Documentation of Indigenous Languages at the Museu do Índio in Rio de Janeiro since 2009 and, in collaboration with the Kuikuro Indigenous (AIKAX), the Group of Kuikuro filmmakers (CKC), and the anthropologist Carlos Faust, she coordinates the Project Documenta Kuikuro (DKK), which creates lasting records of Kuikuro life and culture.

For over four decades, Prof. Franchetto’s goal has been to assist indigenous communities in developing the tools they need to ensure their own linguistic and cultural self-sufficiency. Thanks to her continuing mentorship and support, the Kuikuro people now have their own teachers, grammarians, and film directors, and she is currently cultivating a second generation of young linguists who live and work in their communities, create pedagogical materials, and collaborate on dictionaries, grammatical descriptions, and cultural documentation. She is an incredible role model for linguists who wish to scrupulously document understudied and endangered languages, to involve community members as equal partners in this task, and to ensure that the work of linguists benefits the communities with which they work.

Professor Liliane Haegeman, Odysseus Professor of English (retired) at Ghent University, the institution from which she received her License (1976) and Ph D (1981).  She is one of the foremost syntacticians in Europe working in the generative framework, recognized not only for her strong administrative and organizational activity, but also for her contributions to linguistic pedagogy and language description. From the time of her appointment as Professor of English Linguistics in the University of Geneva in 1984, she played a major part in the re- invigoration of linguistics there and the emergence of Geneva as a center of syntactic studies in Europe. She remains an honorary professor there. After a stay in Lille (Habilitation, 1997) she returned to Ghent, in 2009, where she played a similar role in stimulating a new generation of productive young scholars in Belgium. She continues to guide research and to advise students actively since her recent retirement.  She is a member of the Belgian Royal Academy and also of its Flemish equivalent.

In the area of pedagogy, her 1991 Introduction to Government and Binding long served as the basic text for that theoretical framework. Her 2005 book Thinking Syntactically has played a similar role in later work. Apart from theoretically informed work on a variety of languages, she is perhaps best known for innovative description and analysis of West Flemish, her native language, which she has single-handedly brought to a central position in the literature on a number of important areas of syntactic discussion, including agreement, verb-second and adverbial structure. On the basis of a solid descriptive background, she has played a major role in the development of the cartographic approach to sentence structure and the analysis of the left periphery.

About the LSA's Honorary Membership Program

According to Article II, No. 5 of the LSA Constitution, any foreign scholar of international distinction in linguistic studies, not resident in the United States, may be elected an honorary member by the Society on recommendation of the Executive Committee. Not more than three Honorary Members may be elected in any one year (an exception was made in 2021, where four nominations were allowed in consequence of the nominations having been in abeyance the previous year). The LSA Committee on Honorary Members recommends to the Executive Committee scholars who, in the Committee's judgement, should be considered for honorary membership. Such scholars will have demonstrated scholarly excellence and have had a notable history of impact on the field.  These recommendations are made in the form of citations and are accompanied by a CV or reference to the nominee's relevant websites. The Executive Committee recommends that LSA members attending the Business Meeting accept the nominations and, upon the acceptance of these nominees, letters, including the citation, are sent to the nominees requesting their written consent to become honorary members.