Jim McCawley

Professor of Linguistics

 

Jim was the teacher, colleague, and friend of many people in linguistics who admired him greatly for his deep humanity and decency, his intellect, and the wide spectrum of things he loved and loved to share. He was the Andrew McLeish Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and East Asian Languages at the University of Chicago, and a scholar of an enormous range of subjects, including "syntax and semantics, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and miscellaneous other subjects, ranging from writing systems to philosophy of science," as he put it.

James D. McCawley's C.V.
Jim's research in his own words
John Lawler's memorial in Language 79.3, September 2003

Our favorite quotes from Jim.

The syntactic theory that I develop . . .is a highly revisionist version of transformational grammar that probably no one other than myself accepts in all its details and to which I refuse to give any name. (SPhE)

"I've already told you more than I know about this."

"I think I'll just take Jeanine at her word that she understands rather than trying to figure out what it is that she doesn't understand" (In response to another student's interpretation of her question.)

"If you want to learn about this other sense of the term `government' you'll have to find out on the streets!"

"Would you say that again using more words?"

"When I'm close enough to the blackboard to write on it, I'm too close to read what I've written.

 
Jim's guide to "interesting food in Chicago."

 

REMEMBERING JIM MCCAWLEY BRIEFLY 
AT HIS FUNERAL, 15 APRIL 1999 


Salikoko S. Mufwene


The past few days of immense sorrow, of a terrible sense of loss, and of emotional confusion reflect something that Jim McCawley played a key role in fostering in this Department: a small family of some sort, in which we have been able to be students and faculty and yet interact with each other as peers, in which we have been colleagues with diverse academic interests and still have maintained a lot of respect for each other and have worked as a team for a strong academic unit at the University and in the world, in which we have been able to discuss academic issues, without much protocol, almost anywhere without special appointments when another relevant member is available, and in which we have celebrated special family, i.e., departmental, events some of which are Jim's own innovations. Yes, Jim made sure that there was always a humane dimension in our socio-academic lives. 

We have all held Jim in high esteem, in a special category of his own, with accomplishments that it would be very difficult to use routinely as standards against which to assess how accomplished another scholar is. He has been special to us, and thank god he knew how much we love him. If his spirit witnesses this special event, then he also realizes how painful it is for us to accept his departure from our physical community. Until I saw his body lying still in the casket at the funeral home yesterday and now here, I kept hoping there was some mistake in the news. Jim has touched our lives significantly. Although he has left us, I must say we will feel him so ever-present in our midst for years and years to come. His intellectual and cultural legacies are so impressive and most of us will continue them. 

Jim was a very warm human being, reserved in some ways, very private, and yet so charming, humorous, witty, perceptive, engaging, challenging when you got to know him and to interact comfortably with him, a rapport which he always made easy to establish with him. He was a model teacher, very helpful and resourceful, with an encyclopedic wealth of facts. He liked formulating ideas accurately and sometimes forcefully with non-linguistic comparisons. He was fair and constructive in critiquing works of others. We have learned from him the phrase "charitable misinterpretation." He was never arrogant and made those who know less-that is most of us-very comfortable and encouraged the pursuit of alternative hypotheses on problems. He typically had enough patience to listen to all sorts of alternative hypotheses, however misguided some of them may be, and he knew of ways of suggesting ways of remedying them without discouraging their authors-but he hardly ever insisted on seeing people do things his way, although he often wondered why some scholars were so stubborn in not realizing their own mistakes. He could enrich one's ideas without letting them feel how much more groundwork they should have done. 

I could go on and on, only to conclude that Jim was a model scholar. One should just have realized soon enough that trying to be like him was like aiming at a target that was hardly in the same place, for Jim's knowledge was constantly in progress; emulating him would have been tantamount to damning oneself to a perpetual inferiority complex. One of the impressive things in Jim's kind of intellectual stature was also how tolerant he was. He believed in the complementary coexistence of approaches to subject matters, in evaluating them in more sophisticated ways, paying attention to their strengths and shortcomings and knowing what aspects of these alternatives may be integrated in more profitable eclectic interpretations of facts. Thus Jim saw little need to hop from one theoretical framework to another but knew how to adjust his own approaches, for which he intentionally did not adopt names (not since generative semantics went under in the late 1970s-mostly for academic-political reasons), and thus he remained the outstanding scholar he was, way out there in a category of his own. His ability to seek inspiration from outside linguistics to solve linguistic problems has inspired many other scholars and has especially marked several of us here in this Department. His practice of field work makes it terribly inaccurate to equate theoretical linguistics with armchair linguistics just as it makes inaccurate equating fieldwork with leaving one's home country to go and work in some exotic setting on a language other than one's own. He helped us realize that you can do fieldwork at home as long as you know how to observe systematically. In a way, Jim taught us to remain linguists everywhere in our lives and that the practice of our profession is not mutually exclusive with other dimensions of our lives. 

I need not go on, especially when time is limited. Let me close these reminiscences on a personal note. None of what I say should me misconstrued as implicating negative judgements on my other colleagues. Jim was my teacher. I am the kind of linguist I am, at least in the respects that he was hopefully proud of, thanks largely to the training I received from him, learning to be a critical thinker rather than a replicator of anybody's teaching. He taught me to live with some imperfections in one's work, not to hide them, actually to be sure to reveal them in one's presentations, and to be committed to figuring out ways of improving them. He has touched me with his modesty and his attentiveness to the works of other fellow researchers and students. He impressed me with his willingness to help in any way he could, while letting the primary scholar have the joy of finding things out on their own. His enthusiasm for good ideas was stimulating, though it was hard to tell whether one's ideas were necessarily bad when he did not express that enthusiasm, but it was easy to talk to him and find out. He was sincere and he had nice ways of telling the truth. In some cases, he simply found no reason for the enthusiasm, not because the idea was bad but simply because he had heard it several times before and just did not think it was leading far. So, if you wanted to find much more, you just had to ask. 

When I became chair, I was told Jim did not want to serve on committees. Well, he would not volunteer but he was nonetheless happy to serve when asked, and he would be on schedule with his dedicated reports. At faculty meetings, Jim would let everybody speak and make brief interventions to help move things forward or break a deadlock. He was very accommodating but made sure that the interests of the Department were not compromised. He cared a lot about the interests of students. He loved teaching and taught more lecture courses than he was expected to. In addition, he taught so many reading courses. When I learned semantics and there weren't many such lecture courses yet, I had reading courses with him. Jim was a superb colleague and an ideal professional model, my professional confidant, a dear advisor, a friend in some ways, a person to whom I hold special debts of gratitude for support of all kinds in my career. Jim, I WILL MISS YOU TERRIBLY.

 

 


 

On Jim McCawley

From Jerry Sadock

Where does one begin to describe someone as extaordinary as Jim McCawley? I'll begin with the fact that he was a tremendous expert and a real connoisseur, in short, a maven,. He was a maven of food, a maven of music - a maven's maven. He just loved knowing things. So he collected facts; facts about wine, about whiskey, about places, about philosophy, about people, about Chicago, about ... about ... about. He was well known for his knowledge of things like this, but you might be interested to learn that as a child he was a maven of baseball. He could tell you every team in the National League, its starting lineup, and their batting averages. In 1929.

You might be surprised to learn that Jim was also a maven of men's fashions. I say this because it seems to me that only someone with an essentially perfect feeling for sartorial elegance could have avoided it with such exquisite precision.

Unlike most linguists, and unlike virtually all other theoretical linguists, McCawley was also a maven of language. He just reveled in the plain facts of language, not only their theoretical implications. And so he knew an unbelievable number of things about English and eight or ten other languages. When someone placed before him a tasty linguistic tidbit, as a cat might bring a morsel to its master, Jim would tilt his big head back, roll his big eyes, and produce a descending whistle of appreciation.

Amongst the languages he immersed himself in was Yiddish. And he knew and appreciated a lot of Yiddish. But since I had a big head start on him there, I actually knew a few things about that language that he didn't. I remember getting the whistle once when I explained that the Yiddish word khokhem, which literally means "genius", was only used to refer to someone who who had done something particularly stupid. You could describe someone as a khokhem who had, say, gone to the airport without his passport, or brought a dozen bagels to a seder. But if the word khokhem were absolutely only used to refer to idiots, it would mean "idiot". In fact the word can be used literally, but since there are vanishingly few real geniuses around nowadays, the opportunities to use khokhem literally are exceedingly rare.

In my estimation, Jim was a genuine, an actual, a literal khokhem. The depth of his understanding and the quickness of his mind were awesome. His ability to see connections between all the disparate things he knew was humbling. He could instantly see the deep ramifications of some new theoretical proposal, as if standing on a great hill of knowledge, surveying a vast landscape of thought. I'd often go into his office and explain a little grammatical problem I had found in the description of English and ask him how he might handle that fact in his theory. An ordinary syntactician might say, "Well, let me think about it, " "Or, that's phonology. I don't handle it," or "I don't consider it a fact." Jim would almost always have an answer, not necessarily because he had already written about the problem, which of course he often had, but sometimes just because he had this incredible, panoramic vision of the structure of the language. The profundity of his thinking was so great that I sometimes wondered why he even bothered to talk to the likes of the rest of us. But he did talk to us, and never with disdain, and never with arrogance, and never haughtily.

In other words, McCawley was a mentsh. He was an remarkably kind and modest human being. He was the least egotistical person I ever met. He pursued his intensely personal investigations and produced his gigantic oeuvre not out of any desire for personal aggrandizement, and certainly not with ill will toward anyone whose views he found wanting. He just needed to continually advance his own understanding of the things that fascinated him and to share what he understood with as many people as possible. His scholarship was no more motivated by a desire to be well known than was his legendary hospitality by a desire to be well liked. And that is exactly why he became so famous and why he was so deeply loved. His modesty revealed itself in the following trait, almost unheard of amongst academics: Jim enjoyed being wrong. How else are you going to learn? If someone managed to give him a killer counterexample to what he was proposing, often as not, the response was the whistle of appreciation.

Jim delighted in repudiating his own ideas and sometimes did so in what would have been a rude way if he were talking about someone else. For his 1973 collection Grammar and Meaning, Jim added new footnotes that criticized his own previously published articles. The new notes to his highly influential paper "The Role of Semantics in a Grammar" include such statements as: "I now see no justification for such a belief" "This proposal is shown untenable in Quang (1969)" "This fact, as far as I can see, is completely irrelevant." "These two examples in fact prove nothing." "One major defect in this whole discussion is ..."

His criticisms of others could be telling, but they were never nasty. In criticizing his own work, Jim waxed uncharacteristically ad hominem.

Jim McCawley was a great man in every sense of the word. His recipe for greatness is complex. The ingredients are very hard to assemble. The instructions are difficult and include:

"Love what you are doing."

"Learn a hell of a lot about it."

"Passionately pursue understanding."

But the first instruction and the hardest to follow is:

"Be a mentsh."

 

 


 

To Jim, From His Students

by Barbara Need

I have been asked today to speak on behalf of the students of the Department of Linguistics. Speaking for 70 or so individuals, not to mention the hundreds of students Jim touched in his thirty-five years at the University of Chicago, is a daunting task. I can't possibly say in five minutes what needs to be said, and has been said on the Department's web site. The best I can do is to speak of my experiences, and hope that they resonate for my fellow students, and for his family and friends.

I met Jim McCawley many years ago when I first came to the University of Chicago as a graduate student. It was certainly during the first week of the first quarter-I didn't have a class with him until second quarter-and possibly at the first Tea of the Quarter. "Tea" is the weekly social event of the Department-and tea is rarely served. At First Tea, the tradition is to introduce oneself and say something about one's work. I don't remember Jim's exact words-though they've probably changed little over the years-but I am certain that one of the things he did was to issue an invitation to all present to his Hanggul Nal party-the celebration of the invention of the Korean alphabet, then a Korean national holiday. I went, determined to take part in the social life of the department, to nuzzle Korean tacos-that's how he described them-and to eat my first Korean food.

This was only the first of several annual events that Jim-I don't think I've ever called him Dr. or Professor McCawley, certainly not to his face-held for his friends, colleagues and students. The second, St. Cecilia's Day, held on or near November 21st, celebrated music, St. Cecilia being the patron saint of music. Attendees were expected to perform for their supper (or turn pages and provide drinks) and supper was always at the end of the evening-to spare his neighbors-and was always a surprise as to ethnicity. Musicians honored were those whose "round-numbered" birthdays (100, 150, 200, etc.) fell in that year. I know he spent all year tracking down musicians to celebrate and music to perform. I did not attend that my first year, but once I started to come, Jim would put together several pieces for me to prepare. He insisted that I was soprano, and gave me some very challenging pieces. I am not half the musician he was-I've had no voice training-and I never really felt prepared, but I came and I sang. The end of the party, before the food, was always marked by a massed singing of the two Queen of the Night arias from The Magic Flute. It didn't matter your range or singing ability; it just mattered that you sang. For those who don't know these pieces, they get quite high, even for a soprano. I was always sure that this year I'ld reach that top note. I may yet, and when I do, I'll think of Jim.

And what will the Chinese New Year, or trips to Chinatown, be without Jim? Every year in January or February, he would sign up to do Tea the week of Chinese New Year. Sometimes he would have help from one or another Asian student, some years he did all the work himself. There were the peanuts, boiled I think, and sometimes green beans or noodles, and always that steamed dish that seemed to be part uncooked rice, part sausage, part potatoes and part who knows what else. The food always ran out in the first half hour-except for the steamed whatever (which he steamed in our not-very-adequate kitchen)-but people kept coming during the afternoon in the hopes that there would be some food left, because it was so good. It was a chance for the students to practice using chopsticks, clearly a covert requirement for graduation from the Department. I will never be able to eat Chinese food without thinking of Jim. At New Years; at his home, where I had been looking forward to going after my dissertation defense for a Jim-cooked meal; in Chinatown restaurants. I have been to Chinatown without Jim, but the food has never been as interesting, though I admit I can do without the deep-fried pigeon.

His last annual event, based on the academic, rather than the Gregorian, calendar, was Bastille Day in July. This was the only event where his guests were expected to bring food. His invitation asked us to bring food from some region of the world which had "thrown off the yoke of French imperialism". It was always a challenge to find something to bring, for two reasons. One, July 14th is often quite hot and one didn't really want to cook if one didn't have to (the first year, I took German coleslaw-it was German because I put caraway seeds in it). In addition, I tried to bring a dish from a different country every year and one year he let me get away with bringing a trifle, a very rich dessert from England, because, well, the Normans were French, don't you know. There was singing here too: he had copies of all of the verses of the Marsaillese, the French national anthem, in French and in German (the book he got them out of was published in Germany). We sang all the verses in French and, by a tradition that dates back to my first Bastille Day, the first verse in German. (Hey, I figured, we had the text, why shouldn't we sing it, and I said so.)

But Jim was more than the parties and interesting food from around the world. He was also our teacher and a supremely gifted linguist and scholar. Two former students have mentioned to me that they came to the University of Chicago because Jim was here. Several students have said that they took his classes, not necessarily because they were interested in syntax or Negation or Japanese, but because he was teaching it and they knew that the class would be interesting and that they would learn a lot. Nothing was irrelevant. One of the things that he taught by example was to challenge the established theories. You didn't need to agree with him theoretically, but you had to think about the position you had taken and not simply accept it as gospel. And yet in disagreeing with others in this field, he was never mean or personal. It was the ideas, not the people, that received his strongest comments.

Certainly one of the features of every class I ever took with him (and, I would guess, every class he ever gave) was the polling of the students for their opinions on the acceptability of different sentences (native speakers of the language under study only, please) on a four step scale of perfect, pretty good, pretty bad and horrible. When students said things which he thought were particularly neat, he would take his notebook out of his breast pocket and note them down in some tiny corner of a page so he could take them home and think about how to explain them. The example sentences he concocted were often very political and usually funny, but he also collected real examples from TV, newspaper and Spanish telenovelas. These he gathered into his "Linguistic Flea Circus" to distribute once a year.

Jim was also a very generous and caring person. He shared of his time to help one student work through logic, and to provide stimulation for ideas and examples that students wanted to bounce off him. When students were going abroad, he would provide a list of restaurants that he thought they should go to and another of local linguists that he thought they might want to meet. He helped feed my Asterix habit (Asterix is a French comic book that has been translated into several languages), by bringing me back copies in Catalan and Basque (no, I don't read Basque, but it is neat to have the book!). He would put books and articles in students' mail folders if he thought they would be interested, and he would often stop to tell me some little thing that he thought I would want to know. He yearly provided a guide to the restaurants of Chicago, arranged by ethnicity, with comments about what the best dishes were.

When I met people away from Chicago who had heard of Jim, they would speak of him with respect (of course, it was always as Professor McCawley) and I would think, that's Jim they're talking about-he's my teacher. And he was known around the world. Letters have come in from Japan and Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, and other far away places from people who had been touched by Jim, by his intellect and his scholarship, and by his enthusiasm for language, for music, for food-for life.

Each of us our own last memories of being with Jim. Mine was a promise that I would have something for him from my dissertation. I will never have it for him. But I will keep that promise; I will finish my dissertation; I will get done and graduate. We will all get done and the best memorial we can give him is to finish, graduate and go out and be the best linguists and scholars we can be, interested in language phenomena of all sorts, wanting to share what we know, and what we don't know, with anyone who will listen. Thank you Jim from all of us, and God bless.

 

 


 

 For Jim

Jim was yeast. 
He was our brilliant brother 
aloft and free in language, food and math 
free to sing and eat and think and laugh with
He stood up for freedom, quietly. 
In the early days of black and power 
being put together for the first time ever 
there were white folks brave enough 
to get on busses in the North and go down South, 
to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, 
into the fiery violence, to stand beside 
black brothers getting hosed and teargassed, 
and someone knew and told me (Jim never would) 
that on those busses was a Scot from Glasgow.
that rhymes with his libertarianism, he even ran 
for office on that ticket. He let me know 
he liked their stands, and sent me just a dusting 
of their stuff, but when it found no echo in me 
he simply took those pages from the friendly stacks 
of dittos and then xeroxes with which he loved 
to present us anywhere and anywhen we met him.
His papers! How many words came through 
that rickety typewriter! On logic Finnish syntax 
grammar Otto causatives Noam cooking grammar 
Japanese semantics grammar Mexican novelas 
idioms restaurants noun phrases Feyerabend 
tone languages critiques and music, prepositions 
the river of his writing of his life
the hardest thing to know is: even mighty rivers 
like this one can and must one day run dry. 
The tide of art and pranks and friendship - 
hard to find a continent he hadn't talked on 
found good Chinese food in or bought sheet music from, 
Ambassador to Language, wherever people talked or ate 
was where one day you'd find him, giving arcane courses 
at universities you'd never heard of, plucking always 
different kinds of facts, sweet ones or astringent, 
congenitally and irreverently deep, unfettered 
Nur fuer wissenschaftliche Zwecke! 
Only for scientific purposes! - this cheery German 
rubber stamp would find itself gracing margins 
of texts Jim found particularly repellent, he'd send them 
to us to marvel at, but never to believe.
Believing in one's life was all-important 
as much so as leavening one's thinking 
with self-deflating barbs. "I want to launch 
an attack on myself," I heard him say once, 
at a conference, as he lit into his old idea. 
We will not soon forget how in the latter 60's, 
a time of blood and hate, when students first took over 
offices of presidents, or blew up buildings, were even shot 
by National Guardsmen, cut off their toes to not be drafted, 
or fled to Canada, days of inflated body counts, 
days of a country learning loathing of itself, of Beatles 
Stones, drugs flower children Maharishi assassinations 
the flag cut up for clothing, of fearless old ladies 
in a tiny country shooting at our jets with rifles, 
days when laughter was as needed as was plasma -
these days give birth to an unexpected voice 
in international linguistics. From the indelible 
South Hanoi Institute of Technology 
come not only noted syntactician Quang Phuc Dong 
and preposterous crony Yuck Foo, no less, 
impossibly clear cold water to slake the thirst 
of battles in Southeat Asia, not only deathless examples 
like "Fuck Lyndon Johnson" and "Fuck any irregular verb," 
but around and through this all a masterful analysis 
of newest data, a pushing out the envelope. 
So much song to sing - and how about Jim's parties! 
On Bastille Day, with food from any land where once 
had flown the tricolor but now no longer, duets 
with recorder or harpsichord, or solos by Jim, 
on a challenging arrangement of "Yesterdays" on guitar, 
gatherings of food and fact and musics from all over, 
feeding happy guests of every theoretic stripe, 
an internoetic amiability so effortless 
we never could imagine life without it -
Is it learning that we do from life so rich? 
Yes, but it is learning beyond love of learning, 
for all was done with caring, caring for his students 
(and who is here who thinks they were not one?) 
caring for the beauty of a fact or proof or chord 
audacious trickster sneaking up on truth, 
in walrus moustache, wing-like eyebrows, 
eyes glinting in the joy of the next gag 
he's just thought of, is about to tell us. 
This can all be done - and must be.
But now it's up to us to find titles to rhyme with 
"Where you can shove infixes," "Verbs of bitching," 
"Interpretive semantics meets Frankenstein" 
We too can be data fetishists for fun and profit, 
poke fun at opponents before all going to eat Szechuan
We'd like a way of saying thanks to life, 
for giving us extraordinary radiance to share it with, 
and while we first might try to juggle all these skills 
and loves that Jim had, keep all revolving 
in our minds' air, that way's too easy. We are called, 
instead, to be ourselves, in all uniqueness, 
no less weirdly wonderful than is our brother Jim, 
o love, to learn, to care, to dare, to soar, 
to walk the tightwire in the arc lights high above us, 
bowing lightly on the cresting wave of praise.

Haj 19.IV.99. Mistywood

 

 


 

Memorial April 23, 1999

We are all here today because of Jim McCawley. We're here this afternoon because of the sadness and shock we have felt as we realized that we wouldn't see Jim again, and to celebrate Jim's spirit as we knew it. We're also here at this meeting because of the tradition of linguistics that Jim was so essential in developing and nurturing at the University of Chicago.

It's strange to realize that only a short two weeks ago, the faculty of the Department of Linguistics was convening for yet another faculty meeting, and Jim was there, taking an active part in our planning for next year and for the future of the department. It was only the next night -- April 10 -- that I got a phone call late at night from Salikoko telling me that Jim had had a heart attack which he did not survive. Since that moment we've all been trying to make sense out of what it means to have a Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago in which Jim is present to those who have known him, but which he will not play an ongoing role in shaping as we move into the next century.

Last week many of us in the linguistics community came to know just a little bit about Jim's wonderful family here in the Chicago area -- we met his sisters Caroline and Monica, and we met several of Jim's neices and nephews, and we learned about the warmth that they shared. At the same time, messages have flooded the department from Jim's friends and admirers around the world, and we have made these available for friends of Jim to read on our department web page.

No one, of course, can replace Jim in our hearts, and no one could replace him in our department either. Imagine what we would have to do: we could write an ad like this:

We seek a candidate with an overwhelming publication record in phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Additional strengths a must; fluency in ten languages or more a plus. The successful candidate will also cater to large groups of linguists 15 to 20 times a year in difficult, exotic cuisines. The position includes considerable domestic and overseas travel. Send CV and 1,000 letters of recommendation to Salikoko Mufwene·

I'm sure that Jim wouldn't want to be anyone's hero, because heroes are people we treat specially and judge by different rules, and one of Jim's principles (he was a very principled man) was to treat everyone alike. Otherwise I'd recommend Jim as great hero among linguists. But hero or not, I know that Jim's very distinctive voice in writing has greatly influenced me in the years that I've been here, with its singular combination of modesty, inclusiveness, incisiveness, humor and fun. And I know that Jim has written more -- a good deal more -- than I have read, I know too that I'll have more of McCawley's works to read for a good long time. I'm looking forward to that, and I hope that this is a pleasure that I'll have to share with many other people over the years to come. I'll miss Jim the person, but I'll do my best to keep Jim's spirit in my thoughts.

John Goldsmith

 

 

 


 

JAMES MC CAWLEY Memorial at CLS: April 23, 1999

Alice Davison

I was a student of Jim's in the 60s. Many of us converged on Chicago in the mid-sixties, obeying some mysterious imperative broadcast to incipient linguists unknown to each other. Jim was then a new Assistant Professor teaching the introductory sequence in linguistics. We were insecure and very ignorant, but Jim was far from easy to understand, not just because of the very severe stutter from which he suffered still at that time. There was the dense flood of interesting and in some ways too challenging insights about language and theory. There was also an intense shyness. For many of us, ; talking to Jim was like conducting a conversation with a person on the other side of a brick wall, though we could all perceive his obvious kindness and willingness to exchange ideas, whether in class, at San Diego Syntax Festivals or in Chinese restaurants.. In fact he was so willing to draw out of us new ideas and new facts that we often felt we didn't have enough yet to tell him, a feeling which resulted in many incompletes for the courses. Yet the papers which I finally wrote were far more ambitious than ones which could have reasonably been done in a quarter, and writing them remains among the most rewarding experiences of my education. He also armed us well against the rapid and contentious changes in theories to come in the future, by training us to read difficult papers even when the theory is not clearly articulated by the author. Using 19th and early 20th century papers, he taught us to work out the actual operative assumptions and theoretical constructs from the way the author uses examples and comments on them. This is .a skill which remains useful to me to this day. Characteristically, he could roundly criticize and chastise an author while at the same time emphasizing the virtues and interest behind alien-seeming ideas, making you want to know more about the topic, and encouraging you to respect the author's attempt to capture some insight.

The last time I saw Jim, in November, remains vividly in my mind, just for the fun of talking with him and enjoying food and music in the unconventional and wholehearted way so typical of Jim. . In the past two weeks when I have vividly regretted that there won't be another time, it dawned on me that without thinking particularly about it, I was talking easily to Jim, and the wall was long gone..I did manage to thank Jim for the very many letters of recommendation he wrote for me. But like so many of us, I feel that I left it too late to say many things to Jim, in response to the wealth of ideas which he articulated in his own very idiosyncratic way, and his insights in what theories say about language. I feel that I still have some incompletes to remove. I hope to follow Jim's example--he wrote so much that I don't know whether all of it was 'good' in some absolute sense, and in fact he regularly denounced some of his old ideas and found new and better ones. He just said what he had to say in the way that he could say it. While I can't speak to him directly, I hope to finish writing papers which are still about the questions he raised while I first studied with him, when I would wake up at 6 in the morning full of excitement about syntax, wondering what discoveries the day would bring.

 


 

Jim has been one of my very best friends over years, since the 60's. He was frequently in Japan and I enjoyed working with him in Tokyo also.

When I moved from Bell to OSU, he immediately told me which Chinese restaurant in Columbus I should visit; I still go there with my family. I talked with him in various places in the world, one of them being in Sånga Säby, Sweden. The first time I met him was in Ueno, Tokyo, at the first "World Congress on Phonetics", of which I remember only meeting McCawley. He was really a fine person, as well as an outstanding linguist. I admired him so strongly. What a loss.

The world is now so much less interesting without him.

Osamu

Osamu Fujimura, Professor

 


 

 

Dear Colleagues,

We have learned the sad news of Jim's passing away and we are deeply moved by it. We have had very close personal and professional contacts with Jim and appreciated most highly his personality and his great and unmeasurable contribution to the development of the field of linguistics. He visited us several times in Prague, his lectures were a real event for our community - and not only our Czech community but also for the students of the Vilem Mathesius Series of lectures who come from most different countries of Europe and where Jim gave intensive courses in the past years. We were negotiating with him his next visit for spring 2000 and we all were looking forward to meet him again so much.

We will terribly miss him and will keep him in our memories as one of our best friends and colleagues. Please, be so kind and pass over our deepest sympathies also to Jim's family.

Sincerely Yours

Eva Hajicova and Petr Sgall

Professors of Linguistics

Charles University

Prague

Czech Republic

 

 


 

 

This is exactly what I experienced when I read Elisa's message yesterday:

Do you think it's

a) very good

b) pretty good

c) pretty bad

d) horrible

To me, this was so much of the very 'Jim', who showed us how to "do linguistics" by collecting endless, valuable data in classroom: In Japanese phonology class, he was always excited with big smile on his face, saying "thank you, thank you", every time he found something surprising (to him) after he collected our native votes. I always wanted thank him for not only providing me with so much important information, but also showinging me in actual classroom how he does linguistics. Although I couldn't thank him in person, I feel that this experience will always be in me and in all of us who took his influential classes so that I will be thanking him forever.

Yukari

 

 


 

Dear Elisa,

Thank you for the terribly sad message. I was so shocked and grieved to hear about Jim. It is just like I never thought anything like that could happen, or that there would ever be a Chicago linguistics Dept. without him. He meant tremendously much to me, as a linguist and as a person. If anybody ever leaves an unfillable gap, it must be Jim.

Jan Terje

 

 


 

Dear Sali,

What a terrible loss to the University and to our depts. I am personally devastated, all the more so because the postponement of one day means that I will not be able to attend the memorial service as I shall be in D.C. on Thursday. I send you and your colleagues in Linguistics my heartfelt condolence, and I will be mourning Jim--the friend, the scholar, and the man--for a long time to come.

Tony Yu

 


 

 

Dear Sali,

I heard the devastating news on Sunday from Rebecca Wheeler. You folks must be in utter shock. Maybe it's too soon to think about it, but is there going to be any sort of fund established in Jim's memory at Chicago or through the LSA? I would certainly advocate for the latter in particular, and would be anxious to offer some contribution. And for what it's worth, Culicover and I are publishing a paper in LI soon -- the paper I gave in Chicago a year and a half ago -- on a topic Jim had written on and advised us on; we're planning to dedicate it to his memory.

With my best wishes and sympathy to you and the rest of the Chicago community,

Ray Jackendoff

 


 

 

Dear Salikoko,

I received, indirectly, a message containing the news of Jim McCawley's death. I was very sorry to hear and simply wish to express my condolences and sympathy to his friends and colleagues at U. C. and to any of his family that you might be in contact with. He was a very big influence on me during my years at Chicago and it is hard to imagine Chicago without him being there. I am sending along a copy of the message I sent to the Mexican Association of Applied Linguistics with some of my memories of Jim to let Mexican linguists know about his death.

Sincerely,

Thom

Dr. Thomas C. Smith Stark

profesor-investigador

Centro de Estudios Linguisticos y Literarios

El Colegio de Mexico

Camino al Ajusco No. 20

01000 Mexico, D. F.

Subject: Recuerdos de James D. McCawley

A los socios y amigos de AMLA ...Heriberto Avelino me mando el mensaje de Salikoko S. Mifwune al final de esta comunicacion en donde se informa del fallecimiento de James D. McCawley el sabado en la noche. En su memoria, quisiera compartir con ustedes algunos recuerdos que tengo de el. Jim McCawley fue uno de mis maestros mas destacados en la Universidad de Chicago y una de las influencias mas importantes en el ambiente de la linguistica de los Estados Unidos a finales de los anhos 60 y principios de los 70. Estudio en el I.T.M. al principio de los anhos 60 y fue, con G. Lakoff, Ross, y Postal, uno de los impulsores mas importantes de la semantica generativa. Esta corriente fue la que predomino en la Universidad de Chicago cuando hice mis estudios de doctorado ahi y fue un componente importante que explica el impacto y el exito que tuvieron las actas de las reuniones anuales de la Sociedad Linguistica de Chicago en esos anhos.

Pero Jim tambien fue un linguista erudito y de muchas facetas. Su tesis de doctorado presento un analisis fonologico del sistema de acento del japones. La fonologia y en especial los sistemas tonales siempre fue una de sus especialidades. Sus comentarios en clase y en las reuniones periodicas de los linguistas de Chicago consistentemente revelaron una persona de amplia cultura linguistica. Me acuerdo que una vez me dijo que solia escuchar los emisores de radio y television en espanhol en Chicago y apuntar curiosidades linguisticas que reflejaban conflictos de concordancia y cosas al estilo (creo que aprendio el espanhol en una brigada azucarera en Cuba).

Pero su cultura no terminaba con la linguistica. Musico y gastronomo, me acuerdo de varias visitas a los restaurantes de comida china en Chicago con otros estudiantes y Jim en la delantera descifrando los misterios del menu, experiencias del tipo que finalmente se plasmaron en su libro sobre caracteres chinos para los amantes de la comida china. El impacto de Jim sobre sus estudiantes se puede medir por el hecho de que se le armo un homenaje en la ocasion de su cumpleanhos numero 33 o 34: "Estudios desde el jardin izquierdo: ensayos defamatorios presentados a James D. McCawley" (1971), que en realidad es una coleccion de ludo- y escatolinguistica inolvidable, incluyendo dos estudios del mismo Jim bajo su nombre de pluma de Quong Phuc Dong, profesor del Instituto de Linguistica del Sur de Hanoi (S.H.I.T.). Ahi adquiri mi gusto para los "swifties" linguisticos: "I'm late", said the white rabbit in Amuzgo.

Desde las cosas mas livianas hasta los estudios mas serios --por ejemplo, su libro "Todo lo que los linguistas siempre han querido saber sobre la logica (pero que tenian verguenza en preguntarlo)" (1981), que no por lo rebuscado del tema podia escaparse de un titulo jocoso--, se puede encontrar en la obra de Jim una mente aguda, critica, original, provocativa y jugueton que ha dejado una huella profunda en muchos linguistas contemporaneos y en mi. Q.E.P.D.

Thomas C. Smith Stark

To the members and friends of AMLA ...Heriberto Avelino sent me the message at the end of this note from Salikoko S. Mufwune, which tells about the death of James D. McCawley last Saturday night. In Jim's memory, I would like to share with you some of my own reminiscences about him. Jim McCawley was one of my most outstanding teachers at the University of Chicago and one of the most influential and important linguists in the United States during the late 60's and early 70's. He studied at M.I.T. at the beginning of the 60's where he, together with G. Lakoff, Ross, and Postal, was one of the primary developers of generative semantics. This theoretical stance predominated at Chicago when I studied for my doctorate there and was an important component of the success and impact which the proceedings of the annual meetings of the Chicago Linguistic Society had during those years. But Jim was also a learned and multi-faceted linguist. His dissertation presented a phonological analysis of the accentual system of Japanese. Phonology, and especially tonal systems, were always one of his specialties. His comments in class and in the monthly meetings of the Chicago Linguistic Society consistently revealed a person of wide-ranging linguistic knowledge. I remember once when he told me that he used to listen to Spanish language television and radio in Chicago and note down oddities which reflect conflicts in the Spanish rules of agreement and other such things (I think that he learned Spanish while working on a sugar cane brigade in Cuba).

Jim's interests didn't end with linguistics. Musician and gourmet, I remember various visits to Chinese restaurants with other students and Jim in the lead deciphering the mysteries of the menu, experiences of the sort that eventually resulted in his book on Chinese characters for lovers of Chinese food. Jim's impact on his students can be gauged by the fact that a Festschrift was organized in his honor on the occasion of his 33rd or 34th birthday: "Studies out in left field: defamatory essays presented to James D. McCawley" (1971), which in reality is an unforgettable collection of ludo- and scatolinguistics, including two of Jim's own studies under his pen name of Quong Phuc Dong, professor from the South Hanoi Insitute of Technology (S.H.I.T.). That's where I acquired my taste for linguistic "Swifties": "I'm late", said the white rabbit in Amuzgo. From light-hearted studies to more serious work --for example, his book "Everything that linguists have always wanted to know about logic (but were ashamed to ask)" (1981), which despite its highly technical content could not escape from having a humorous title--, one finds in Jim's publications a keen, critical, original, provocative and playful mind which has had a profound impact on many contemporary linguists and on me. R. I. P.

Queridos todos:

Me uno al desconcierto que ha causado las malas noticias. También me gustaría recordar algunos de los aspectos más destacados de Jim. Empezamos a estudiar la lingüística en MIT al mismo tiempo en 1961, aunque yo todavía como estudiante de licenciatura, y él por supuesto años luz delante de mí (y de hecho delante de todos) en sus conocimientos de lenguas. Pero más impresionante aún era la agilidad con la que pudo pescar justo el hecho sintáctico del serbocroato, del japonés, o de otra lengua conocida a él, para poner a prueba el punto teórico bajo discusión (a ratos aun del inglés). Tartamudeó bastante, pero todos lo aguantamos hasta terminado lo que decía, porque sabíamos que valdría la pena esperar. Era sabio, le gustaba la buena vida, sobre todo el comer (Ácuántos patos a la pequinesa no comíamos juntos [y entre varios]!), y era un gran amigo de muchos de nosotros. Todos hemos aprendido mucho de él, y lo echaremos a menos.

Jim

James L. Fidelholtz e-mail: jfidel@siu.buap.mx

Maestri'a en Ciencias del Lenguaje

Conocí a James D. McCawley sólo por sus textos. Pero fue uno de mis maestros. Quienes me conocen, saben de mi pasion por Jespersen, y McCawley. editó el Analytic Syntax de Jespersen, una obra de cabecera para mi... Adema's de todo lo que le leí al senior...Y lo que usé de sus textos para mis clases...Era mi maestro, no como MI MAESTRO, pero fue, claramente mi maestro... por eso:

REMEMBER

Remember me when I am gone away, 
Gone far away into the silent land; 
When you can no more hold me by the hand, 
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. 
Remember me when no more day by day 
You tell me of our future that you planned: 
Only remember me; you understand 
It will be late to counsel then or pray, 
Yet if you should forget me for a while 
And afterwards remember, do not grieve: 
For if the darkness and corruption leave 
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, 
Better by far you should forget and smile 
Than you should remember and be sad.

--Christina Rossetti

 Querido Thomas: !gracias por compartir con nosotros tus recuerdos! Es una pena la desaparicion de este buen linguistica y mejor hombre. Pero que maravilla haber dejado tanto! Asi es una maravilla haber vivido...

REBECA

I'm so sorry to hear of your former teacher's unexpected death. I have always admired McCawley's verve, wit and linguistic acumen. A very sad loss indeed. Yours,

Fernando Leal.

Thom: Primero me salio en la computadora el poema que mando Paulette y ya comprendi como supiste y ya lei lo demas y sigo llorando. No lo conoci tanto como tu, pero si lo suficiente como para quererlo...un abrazo,

Yolanda

Cuando te vi no había leido mi correo. No cabe duda de que desde la efevescencia de la semántica generativa la presencia de McCawley había dejado ya huella en la historia. Cuando estuve compartiendo con Barbara y Emmon tuve oportunidad de conocerlo y darme cuenta de que personalmente también causaba revuelo su presencia, su buen humor, su participación musical en las fiestas, sus discusiones acaloradas. Una personalidad muy fuerte y atractiva. Le mando un abrazo,

Josefina

 

 


 

 Dear Sali,

Your late distinguished colleague Jim McCawley was truly a great linguist. We may never see anyone quite like him again. Certainly, scholars of his talents are incredibly rare. His passion for linguistic facts (collected each year in the "Linguistic Flea Circus", essentially just a scrapbook of raw facts) was combined with a deep interest and expertise in theoretical issues. His breadth of learning (with polyglot accomplishments to marvel at) was combined with penetrating attention to large bodies of difficult material in specific languages. He was an awesome linguistic scholar.

But he was so much more. Unlike so many theoretical linguists, he had a real ear for adjacent disciplines like philosophy, a field he could easily have been a significant contributor to had linguistics never existed, and he had genuine credentials in mathematics and logic, making him formally much more competent than the median-level formal linguist.Of numerous works of his one can say that if he had published nothing else but that item he would still be rightly well known. For example (I pick a personal favorite, of course), "Concerning the base component of a transformational grammar" (1968, in Foundations of Language) is a true classic, a paper (from the pen of a man one year out from writing a dissertation in a completely different subfield of the discipline) that makes one wonder how so many original insights could have been pulled together in one place by one person. And linguists of the future who are truly interested in how the grammar of English might be fully described will have McCawley's "The Syntactic Phenomena of English" on their shelves the way they will have (Jim's hero) Jespersen on their shelves. On the working shelf, near the keyboard.To my knowledge, Jim never in his life published a joint paper with anyone. He worked alone. And he was so fiercely independent of intellectual fashions it sometimes seemed as if he only visited our planet occasionally, dropping in (always with that large bag stuffed with recent drafts and xeroxed publications to press into your hand) just to see how we were getting along. And yet he was the opposite of out of touch -- he always knew the latest literature and valued its insights. And he was the opposite of of a recluse: he loved company, had a thousand friends, dined out with a tableful of them as often as he possibly could. I always sought him out if he was at any conference I was at. I always asked him if he thought we might be able to go and eat together somewhere. He was never too booked up to arrange for me to be included in a party of people who would go off to a restaurant that he knew somewhere, and there would be another hour or two of fascinating linguistic conversation and his inimitable humor and wit.In all the years I knew him, I do not recall him ever uttering a personal put-down, saying something deliberately cutting, asking a question of which the main point was to be unpleasant, expressing displeasure or disgust at anyone. I don't mean he was a wimp; he wasn't. Sometimes his reviews and critical articles were utterly devastating. But they were addressed to the issues. He simply chose not to devote his energies to personal hostilities.

He was a wonderful friend. I thought he would always be there; there would always be another obscure provincial Chinese restaurant, another slip of paper on which he would scribble for the waiter in Chinese characters what everyone would have; there would always be more ideas, insights, critiques, examples, theories, new papers in that offprint bag. Now that there will not be, it is hard to take in. It is one of the saddest moments I can recall in our field. I miss Jim McCawley. I always will. I offer my deep sympathy to you and your colleagues in Chicago for whom his loss will be even more tangible and immediate than the deep loss I feel myself.

--Geoff Pullum

 

 


 

Dear Amy,

I'm devastated, as all of you must be. I walked into class today and could remember what I was supposed to talk about. I talked about Jim for 20 minutes before I could even think of holding a class.I've known Jim for 38 years. Every part of my life since I was 20 has had Jim in the middle of it. I was just about to call him to sound him out on new ideas for a neural theory of grammar. There is no one else in the world I can talk to about linguistics that way. And there's no one else in our field who held things together like Jim did -- from jokes to lists of wild sentences to great dinners to ..... I was talking to Chuck today. We couldn't think of anybody who brought the field together more than Jim -- only he could talk about all branches and all theories.

And it's hard to think of Chicago at all without Jim -- the university and the city! I just flashed on the tours of architecture he used to take me on.Every time I think about him, my brain goes off in a thousand directions.I'm terribly sad for your department. If I can help in any way, let me know. Please tell everyone that my heart is with you.

Take care,

George Lakoff

 


 

I never, by great mischance, met Jim McCawley. But I heard him speak, read with profit and pleasure his serious and not-so-serious writings, and especially enjoyed his virtuoso relationship to Chinese eating and his excellent and ingenious guide to its dishes and delights.It's deeply saddening that such a rich and well-loved personality should be withdrawn from us so suddenly, and at so young an age. Please accept my sincerest condolences.

Michael L. Kay

Professor Emeritus of Linguistics

Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics

York University, 4700 Keele Street

 

 


 

 

Dear Sali and other colleagues at Chicago,

I am saddened to learn of the death of Jim McCawley, your stellar colleague and friend to all. My deepest sympathies on your great loss. Jim will be missed round the world.

Ed Finegan

 


 

 

Sali,

I was shocked and saddened to hear about Jim. What can linguistics be without him? No words can help at this point, but I think we will have to work much harder to keep the joy of linguistics going without his wit and incredible wisdom to keep the ball rolling.

Don Smith

 


 

 

Dear Dr Salikoko S Mufwene

I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Jim MacCawley. I never knew him in person but have respected and enjoyed his work since I was a graduate student many years ago. His death is a great loss to linguistics.

Meriel Bloor

CELTE

University of Warwick

 


 

Dear Sali:

Tom Bever just passed on the horrible news about Jim McCawley. We were told to forward any condolences/remarks to you. It is hard for me to imagine the field without him. I have always taken him as a personal model of scholarship. His ideas and writing have always been an inspiration and the fact that he actually knew my name and would greet me at meetings always gave me a secret thrill. I'm so very sorry to hear this.

take care,

Mike Hammond

 


 

From: Murvet Enc Subject: Re: Jim McCawley

Good god, I'm in shock too. Thanks for letting me know. He has always been, for me, an honest, honourable, hard-working and exceptionally insightful linguist who survived magnificently outside the mainstream. He was also the chair of the session where I gave my very first conference paper at LSA. Kind, gracious, and very helpful to a scared grad student. Hope he went with the taste of Chinese food in his mouth, as I think he might have wanted to.

Murvet

 


 

Dear Sali:

I am shocked and deeply grieved at the news of the loss of Jim. He was my teacher as well and his way of dealing with graduates (with consideration and respect), as well as his superb scholarship has inspired me all my life.

Ralph Fasold

 


 

Salikoko,

Unbelievable shock!! Our thoughts are with you in this time of terrible sadness. Jim was a close and wonderful friend who shared many happy hours talking linguistics and baseball with me and my husband Peter Bjarkman.

Ronnie

 


 

Dear Sali and Jerry,

I am so shocked at this news which Sali has sent me, and which I've forwarded to my department and others. I can hardly believe this and I am so, so sorry.As you both know, Jim was my first syntax teacher--Sali, maybe we were even in the same class. Jim's way of teaching first quarter syntax--no book, but instead methodically justifying, day by day, the components of a very reasonable transformational grammar of English straight from his head--seemed to me such a brilliant way to show that your own thoughts could be both the tools and the object of a complete and self-reliant science. It's interesting to me too that the U of C ethos of education that many of us as undergraduates came to believe in very fervently, seems to me now in retrospect to have been follwed by no one as completely and genuinely as Jim, even as much as his outer stripes differed from those of the faculty members we then thought of as U of C's establishment. He was so completely humble, and fair-minded, in how he allowed intellectual values to guide his discourse and interactions. He never ever seemed to have a single immodest bone in his body, nor do I think he ever internalized or practiced any idea of social rank--as a 19 year old undergraduate, I felt he took exactly the same care in justifying his ideas to me, in explaining things, in giving me out of his budging briefcase what he had written the previous night, as he would have to you guys or Chomsky or whoever, and all of that despite his huge standing in the field. Well I could go on and on with this; and on top of it all he was such a sweet person.

Take care, both of you,

Tony Woodbury

 


 

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. McCawley. While I can't say I knew him well (and I doubt he would have remembered me), I was fortunate enough to have a couple of classes with him as an undergraduate. I will always remember him as a wonderful teacher and a thoughtful and principled person.

David MacGregor

 


 

Dear Sali,

I was very sorry indeed to see your message. This is truly terrible news. Jim was always so full of life. Beyond his ground-breaking contributions to linguistics, I owe him several things. Among them, he first introduced me (and how many others?) to sushi. And the concert he put on at the Chicago LSA gave a new and much appreciated dimension to the LSA. My heart goes out to you as you and the department grieve for Jim.

Best wishes,

Elizabeth Traugott

 


 

Dear Salikoko,

I am deeply grieved to hear of Jim's death. I did not expect it. I too remember with great fondness learning some of my first linguistics from him, and had expected to be challenged by him for some time to come. Please give my condolences to everyone there. With great sadness,

John Kingston

 

 

 


 

My first significant memory of Jim is of being on a plane with him from San Francisco to Chicago after an MLA/LSA meeting, probably in 1979. There was dreadful turbulence, and people on the plane were visibly shaken and upset-- but I looked across to the other side at Jim, who was sitting perfectly calmly reading a magazine, and that calmed me as well. For someone who never shied from controversy, there was a great serenity about him, which one tended to miss because his sense of humour was so marvelously overwhelming.

We saw him several times in Hong Kong, during a year he was spending in Taiwan. At one point he came and stayed with us for a few days-- he didn't have access to a piano in Taiwan, and was so delighted to see our electric one that he stayed up late into the night playing (with headphones). He and I also played quite a few four-hands duets, and I have a couple of lovely pictures of my baby son crawling on Jim's belly and pulling his moustache.Another memory is of a very enjoyable trip to Cheung Chau with Jim and my family. We ended up at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Jim insisted we go to just because it was so completely unprepossessing. But it ended up slightly embarrasing because the menu was handwritten on the wall -- and Jim couldn't read it! So I had to use my kitchen Cantonese, and as a result am undoubtedly one of the few Westerners who ever ordered a Chinese meal for Jim McCawley.

There was also a memorable dinner in Hong Kong with Jim, Konrad Koerner, Suzanne Romaine, and all the linguists of the HKU English Department, at a restaurant booked by a colleague whose husband was head of the HK Consumer Council. The manager of the restaurant waited on us personally, anxious to make a good impression because our colleague's husband could shut him down with a single phone call. Jim managed to pick out from the menu a dish called "Buddha Jump Wall", which normally requires two weeks' advance notice to assemble the rare ingredients. The manager literally blanched, his jaw dropped. They served us the dish about half an hour later-- in the meantime he had sent his staff scurrying with cell phones to restaurants all over town that had this or that necessary ingredient. We didn't know this until our colleague told us the following week.

I wonder if there is anyone else who could have meaningful discussions about language with such a wide range of people as he could. And that's not to mention food, music, cats and all the other things that filled him with delight and wonder.He was certainly Glasgow's greatest gift to linguistics. On behalf of the linguists of Scotland, a fond farewell to Jimmy, her favourite expatriate son. --John Joseph

 


 

Dear Amy,

Thank you very much for informing me about Jim's terrible news. I am also under shock. Barbara, please include me on the list who sends their deep condolescences. Take care,

Asli Ozyurek

 

 


 

Jim McCawley in memoriam

I am sitting here in the quietness of morning disturbed only by the crystalline song of a cardinal, looking at the bibliography of one of the last classes I took with Jim McCawley - Linguistics and the Philosophy of Science, fall 97. The length of the bibliography leaves me in awe. For me, it was by far one of the most interesting and arcane classes taught by Jim, and also the one that most clearly reflected his immense knowledge of our field. That quarter, he compared linguistics with astronomy, mathematics, physics, medicine and chemistry. Jim was willing to open the doors for us to see where linguistics stood in the realm of science and how it would fare within the rigorous framework of such works as Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Feyerabend's Farewell to Reason, Popper's Conjectures and Refutations, and Objective Knowledge. He never said whether linguistics was or was not a science, perhaps one of the conclusions I was expecting to hear. He only pointed the way for us to make our own decision. But make no mistake, his silence was based on his immense knowledge. He knew that no simple answer was possible, not even after having read all the books he put on the bibliography. More amazing, and revealing of his high caliber as a linguist and philosopher, is the fact that he knew that his own theory should come under our scrutiny if his class was going to teach us something. He knew that some of us would look more closely at his theory, and decide whether it was scientific or not according to the criteria laid out in front of us. Many theories populate the linguistic realm in the USA. Some of them were born from disagreements with other theories in the early days of generative grammar, and usually their proponents are reluctant to expose them in a class where they may be criticized. Very few linguists want their theories exposed to scientific examination of that nature. But Jim was willing. In the light of his review of Feyerabend's Farewell to Reason, "the Dark Side of Reason," and his discussion of Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, one can only conclude that Jim knew very well his was only one of many theories which inhabited the linguistic universe at the end of the century. He knew that it was impossible to claim that any of them was more scientific than the others. The fact that so many exist attests to the relative value of each, with none of them able to attract the opposite factions (cf. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Through Linguistics and the Philosophy of Science, Jim McCawley wanted us to confront the true state of our discipline. The breadth of his knowledge amazes me, as well as his courage to see where he stood. I saw Jim for the last time in January in Los Angeles (LSA 99). I was at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel on the 18th floor. Across Figueroa Street the blue City Bank building rose tall and powerful into the sky. At the very top a small bird was perched on the ledge; it looked like a shadow. For some reason I compare that bird to Jim McCawley. Only he (and perhaps a few others) had what is needed to reach the heights. From there he contemplated the panorama of linguistics in the USA, and found reassuring confirmation for the path he had taken since his MIT-days. I now understand the significance of his Linguistics and the Philosophy of Science. Jim McCawley was the architect of his own life. He lived with the dramatic elegance of an original thinker. Thank you, Jim. Your joie de vivre (the first words we exchanged were related to the quality of a bottle of vino tinto español!), and your knowledge and understanding helped me immensely in getting my PHD.

Eddy Gaytán (a Guatemalan linguist.)

 


 

Dear teachers and friends,

I am extremely sad to hear about Jim's death. I deeply share the grief with you.

Sincerely,

Kyunghwan Kim

 


 

Dear colleagues,

In the midst of this devastating news it has been very comforting to read about people's fond memories of Jim. I just had a few thoughts I'd like to add. One of my favorite things that Jim would often say in class was, "I've already told you more than I know". This modest remark strikes me as at the heart of Jim's marvelous generosity. He was probably one of the smartest people who ever lived, and he knew such a tremendous amount about so many topics. But what made him even more remarkable was his eagerness to share his great knowledge and intellect with as many people as he could -- his friends, his students, his colleagues, and the many thousands of people all over the world who have read his work and heard his lectures.One thing that particularly struck me was his thoughtfulness with regard to other people's interests. As many others have remarked, Jim would very often leave things for people in their department mailboxes, unsolicited, just because he came across something that he thought might interest them. On a number of occasions he left me photocopies of articles he thought I'd like, and I always did like them. It made me so happy to know that he was thinking of me.What a privilege to have known Jim and learned so much from him. I'm sad that he can't be here to tell us more than he knows any more.

Sincerely,

Elaine Francis

 


 

Dear Sali,

Such terrible news.Jim and I knew each other only casually, but meeting him was always a treat. When we ran into each other at conferences, we mostly talked about music. Many years ago, we had somehow discovered a common interest in classical music arcana. Our common interest sustained several long and wonderful conversations.A few years ago, we corresponded about linguistics for the first time. Jim was impressed by an observation I had reported in a Milwaukee conference talk, and offered several insightful questions and comments. I was extremely flattered. After all, Jim McCawley was an early linguistic hero of mine. Jim asked if I'd written up my findings. I replied that I had not, that I had a number of older projects to finish first. Jim's reply was quite nice and worth quoting:

  • Dear David, > I did in fact get your reply, for which many thanks. I'll mail you a copy of the current draft of my paper, which will give you an idea of why your Milwaukee paper is of interest to me. I would of course be very grateful for any comments you might have on it. By the way, you aren't under any moral obligation to finish your papers in the same temporal order in which you start them.

I did finally finish the paper last Fall and sent it to him. How sad that I will never have his comments! But almost more sad for me is the fact that our chats about music have come to an end.Anyone interested in knowing more about Jim McCawley the musician should read his amazing article on the grammar of music notation: Linguistic aspects of musical and mathematical notation. In P. Downing, S. Lima, and M. Noonan (eds.), Literacy and Linguistics, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins, 169-90. (1992)

-David Pesetsky

 

 


 

Dear Salikoko,

Ever since I heard from Noriko that Jim passed away, I have had nothing but a feeling of sadness and regret that I did not get to see him again. Like so many people who have been touched by him, I too have been touched and greatly influenced by Jim as a scholar, a teacher and a friend. I can't think of my own intellectual growth without his influence and teaching. Above all I miss him as a friend who helped me out before, during and after my days at Chicago.As a teacher I tried to put into practice what I learned from Jim's stance and approach to teaching. Now that I am working in software industry, I'm still carrying McCawleyism in writing and argumentation conducted during the course of software development processes. I second Ray Jackendoff's suggestion for a memorial fund in honor of his achievement and influence throughout the world.

Kat Momoi

Netscape International Client Products

 


 

Dear Sali,

I am stunned and grieved to receive the news of Jim McCawley's wholly unexpected death last Saturday. Jim was a true human colossus-of intelligence, of humor, of heart-and his passing will leave a vast empty space in our Divisional ranks and life. I am proud to have known him and I will cherish his memory. You and the other members of the Linguistics Department have my deepest sympathies.

Yours sincerely, Janel Mueller

 


 

Our lingistics department has been in a state of shock the last few days. Saturday evening one of our professors, Jim McCawley, died of an apparent heart attack. He was 61 and had taught in the department for 35 years. He was a man of incredible intellect whose research has influenced nearly every aspect of contemporary linguistics. He was also an eccentric man who wore his hair shoulder-length, he had lamb-chop side burns, and a walrus moustache. He had worn his hair (both facial and scalpal) this way for as long as anyone could remember. He was born in Scotland but was raised in Chicago from the age of 5 on, and yet he spoke a unique and strange dialect of English; he would often say that he spoke with Scottish vowels and Chicago consonants. He did not have a car and never learned to drive; instead, he rode his bicycle from his apartment to school, even on the coldest days of winter. On one particularly bitter winter day, one of his colleagues expressed surprise that he'd biked that day, to which he explained that it was a question of 15 minutes of extreme discomfort or 5 minutes of excuciating pain and he opted for the 5 minutes. He was a consummate scholar whose passion for his work was nearly boyish at times, and his enthusiasm and love for linguistics couldn't help but rub off on all of us. As much as he was dedicated to his work, he was a whole person with a great love for culture. Above all he loved classical music and gourmet food, especially Asian cooking. I asked him how he learned to cook Chinese food once, and he told me that he was learning Chinese while living in Taiwan. He thought that Taiwanese television might help his Chinese, so he tried watching it when he could, but he quickly found that the only programs that he was able to understand were the cooking shows. Every year he distributed a list of interesting restaurants in Chicago to members of the department. He organized the list according to ethnic type and made comments about most of them. Every year he hosted several parties in his small apartment, an apartment whose space was mostly consumed by two pianos and his extensive library. One party was to celebrate the Korean alphabet day, which used to be a national holiday in Korea. The Korean alphabet was designed by a team of scholars who were given the task of coming up with the best orthography for the language that they could, and, as Jim would say, by God they did it. He felt we should celebrate this holday because it is the only holiday in honor of linguists. He also celebrated Bastille day every year by having a pot luck party where everybody was to bring food from a country "that had thrown off the yoke of French imperialism" - which, as he was quick to point out, is an exceedingly large number of countries. Jim was known for his quick wit. He found humor in everything and proved that you can do serious academic work that is also amusing. His books include Adverbs, vowels, and other objects of wonder and Everything linguists have always wanted to know about logic (but were too ashamed to ask). As far as I'm aware, he was the first linguist to note that English, in addition to having suffixes and prefixes, has at least one productive infix, i.e. 'fucking', as in 'abso-fucking-lutely' and 'Ala-fucking-bama'. Jim touched us all, and his loss is a great one both for us who knew him and for the field of linguistics. In my four years I worked closely with him. He was on my grading committee for both of my field exams, and he was a certain choice as a member on my dissertation committee (which I have yet to form). Last quarter I was his TA for a course in Semantics/Pragmatics. It's still hard to believe he isn't here, and that I can't just go to his office and ask him for help in understanding some problem.I hope you'll all bear with me for having written such a long message.

Love,

Randy

 


 

I was just one of Jim's students but I realize what a big part of my life he has been and will be. He was the person who taught me the way to go in linguistic research. He never overlooked even trifling but puzzling facts in an ocean of data. Such facts were left unsolved instead of being "explained." He always welcomed new, creative, unconventional ideas no matter how unpolished they may have seemed to him.

He was the person who taught me the way to go in teaching also. He always appeared in class with a notebook full of example sentences he thought up and new possible analyses as well as the old ones. Everyone who took his class would remember his handwritten notebooks, often illegible to others, which indicated an overwhelming amount of preparation.
He was the person who taught me the way to live in Hyde Park. He would take public transportation everywhere. He would enjoy everything the city had to offer. On the weekend, I would see him walking in Chinatown or waiting for a bus at the bus stop. He was everywhere. Once my husband's dentist in Hyde Park talked about the one person who he knew was constantly studying, and of course it was Jim!

We cannot hear those little special expressions of his any more. We cannot see him asking if we have any questions during the "minus five minutes left" in class. We cannot hear his "Banzai!" cheer when our oriental tea is successful. Just anything. When I think of these little things that come to my mind I just can't help crying. What a terrible loss we have suffered.

Sincerely,

Saeko Reynolds

 


 

Rebecca,

I read your message, with great sadness, on my return from a trip away. Thank you for letting me know. It is indeed bad news. I can't say much about the personal side, having only met Jim a couple of times, and that years ago, but I've read the messages at your (Chicago) website, and they speak for themselves.But professionally, let me add my voice to many others, contributing to what will surely be a resounding international affirmation that his loss to our subject is profound. He helped to shape the character of linguistics in our time, and for that we are all grateful.Ironically, I was just about to cross swords with him, over a review of something of mine which is just about to come out. Typically, he sent it to me in advance, to be sure it didn't misrepresent anything. What a spendid gesture, so rare these days, but indicating a genuine desire to contribute to knowledge, and not to self. By all accounts, that was typical of the man. (I think he was wrong about my book, mind - and I'll hope to tell him so, one day.)With every good wish, from Wales, to you, and to all of Jim's colleagues and family.

David Crystal

 


 

Dear Sali,

First, let me add my voice to all of those expressing shock and sorrow at the news of Jim's death. The news hit me hard because I feel I still have a lot to learn from him, and I'm sorry I let the time run out on that opportunity. I'm sure it must be a very difficult time for you, as well. My condolences to you and to everyone else at Chicago. I wish I could be there to share more in the memories of his life. Everything that's been posted to the list so far attests to the unique role he played in the life of linguistics, and the lives of so many individuals. I thought of him as a special kind of role model: the kind of person who shows you how to think your own thoughts and be your own person. There are too few people in academics, or anywhere else for that matter, with this quality. Sincerely,

Bob Knippen

 


 

Dear Mr. Mufwene,

Christine just showed me your announcement of Jim McCawley`s passing, which was sent to the Creolist discussion group. I am terribly saddened to hear that we no longer have Jim among us, and I hope that you will pass on my condolences to his colleagues, students and family. It is poignantly ironic that just a couple of days ago I received a fund-raising letter signed by you, Jerry and Jim. The letter was rather formal in tone, as these things tend to be. Jim had crossed out the salutation (`Dear Mr. Tuite`, or something like that) and wrote in my first name. At the end, next to his signature, he wrote a note to the effect that he was looking forward to a trip to the Caucasus, and had starting studying Georgian (the language I wrote my thesis on). So typical of Jim. Had fate granted him a longer lifespan, he doubtless would have mastered the language, the cuisine, and much else from Georgian culture, and perhaps featured Georgian dishes (and folk music?) at his next St. Cecilia`s party. It would have been worth a trip to Chicago just to be part of it. Now there will be no more St. Cecilia`s and Bastille-Day festivities, no more opportunities to marvel at what this man`s omnivorous intellect was capable of. The grey walls of the University of Chicago will be all the greyer without Jim McCawley. I will miss him, as I know all of you will.

With my sincerest condolences,

Kevin Tuite

 


 

Dear Sali,

as all of you in Chicago, I still cannot believe that Jim is not with us any more. Just a couple of days ago I got a chapter of my dissertation back from him with his usual insightful and friendly comments. My special condolences to the members of the faculty, who have known him much longer than I have and whose feeling of loss I can only vaguely imagine. Thank you,

Kora

 


 

From the time of his arrival at the University of Chicago, Jim McCawley embodied linguistic theory at Chicago. When I was a graduate student, from 1964-68, this was literally true. Jim was the only person in the department teaching generative theory. I learned other theories in the Slavic Department, but the only Linguistics Department courses I took were from Jim. It was the most intellectually exciting time in my life. We were learning a theory which was a new way of thinking about language, and we really thought we were going to explain the nature of language. Moreover, we seemed to see progress with each class. Jim brought in the latest papers, and the discussions were lively and exciting. Regular visits from George Lakoff and Haj Ross added to the atmosphere. The intellectual intensity spread into our social life. Parties, particularly those at Jim's apartment, were dominated by discussions of linguistic theory. This got so bad (or good) that my wife did not like to go to linguistics parties.

Through the years, the fervor died down, but the important characteristics of Jim as a scholar and a teacher remained the same. He read everything and could add insight to the discussion of any theory. He presented his view of the truth, and it did not seem to bother him if others did not agree. He criticized, but never attacked. For him, the goal was always discovering the truth, never advancing his own career at the expense of others. 
One of the best examples of Jim's civility in discourse came at a CLS meeting when Jim presented a paper on Tubatulabal. This was at a time when the 'discussions' between generative linguists and American descriptivists were still openly hostile. Carl and Flo Voegelin had done the basic description of the language. Jim presented the Voegelins' work with some compliments and then offered an improvement using generative theory. I was very surprised to find that Carl Voegelin was in the audience, and got up to say that he was impressed with Jim's reanalysis and agreed that it was an improvement. This exchange was such a welcome difference that I have never forgotten it. 

Bill Darden

 


 

A Personal Recollection of James McCawley

Over this past weekend, a great scholar, teacher, and human being died suddenly. Besides being all those things, James D. McCawley was one of those great types that some of us are lucky enough to meet in our university careers: an unmistakable, un-self-conscious eccentric.

I'd like to offer here a few personal recollections of Jim. I hope this won't seem self-indulgent. These memories flooded into my mind when I heard about his death. Many others have their own stories to tell about Jim; I assign no special status to the ones I recount here, except that they mean something to me.

My first conversation with Jim McCawley occurred in the fall of 1977, during my first semester as a graduate student at the University of Chicago. I had not yet taken a class with him, and had only seen him riding his bike around Hyde Park. (McCawley did not drive-a highly salient characteristic in this day and age.) He approached me spontaneously on campus to tell me about his latest research. He was investigating speakers' concepts of syllable structure in a very clever way: In the late 1960s and early 70s (and still in 1977), a common informal way of expressing emphasis was to insert fuckin=into a phrase; for example, "far-fuckin'-out!" Why not, explained Jim, try to resolve the problem of unclear breaks between parts of words by asking some people to write fuckin' into a set of test words? For example, how do we divide up the first two syllables in a word like illegal? The dictionary says "il-legal," but this may not agree with what some of us actually have in our minds. We can find out by the placement of fuckin': Will it be i-fuckin'-legal? il-fuckin'-legal? il-fuckin'-egal?

I have no recollection of what the results were, but I learned a lot about this future teacher of mine from that encounter. He constantly looked for the quirky method that would answer a question conventional approaches might not handle. He sought to entertain as well as inform in his published work. I remember being flattered, even if somewhat taken aback, when he shared this research with me. For some time, I thought that he had felt he could approach me spontaneously with this "off-color" experiment/joke because I still looked like a hippie, as did he (and as he would until the end): I had long, bushy hair and a moustache; he had long straight hair and a moustache. I came to realize, though, that he probably would share this research with anyone (and eventually did, of course, when it was published): Part of his persona was a cheerful, nonchalant vulgarity which was never offensive.

No one can recall Jim McCawley without thinking of food. Jim was a genuine gourmand. He loved and appreciated good food. But as with everything else that interested him, he did not simply appreciate food, he studied it. Every year he provided a lengthy guide to good restaurants of every variety for participants in the Chicago Linguistic Society's yearly conference. Jim's visitors in Chicago always hoped for an expert's tour of restaurants in Chinatown, or in any of the city's numerous other ethnic enclaves. My wife Kathleen and I will always remember the time that Calvin Trillin came to town to see Jim. The main item on their agenda: lunch.

Among McCawley's over 230 publications is a book called The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters, published in 1984. Jim's theory was that the "good stuff" at a serious Chinese restaurant is listed near the back of the menu and written only in Chinese, or in some cases isn't listed at all, because it isn't intended for non-Chinese guests. His solution was this book, which allowed a dedicated Chinese food aficionado to partake of these secret delights. Jim knew the stuff by heart: We once joined him and several others at a great restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown. Jim, ignoring the menu, wrote down a long list of items in Chinese. We were all rewarded with a spread of delicious dishes that I had never even known existed.

Of course, a man like James McCawley was often too logical and too well prepared for the real world, even in its culinary dimension. Once he came to a conference at UC San Diego (in about 1985). Kathleen and I were living in the area at the time, and he called us to meet for dinner. What to choose? San Diego, unlike Chicago, is not packed with fascinating ethnic restaurants. We decided the Afghan restaurant we knew was too long of a drive. Jim had a solution: an Indian restaurant in La Jolla, not far from the university.

Jim was once a visiting fellow in India. True to form, he had studied Hindi in preparation for his trip (and while there, I assume). When we entered the restaurant in La Jolla, a vacuous blond (female) came to take our order. Jim proudly produced his list of exotic specialties, written in Hindi. The waitress looked perplexed. Jim said, "Take it to the chef. He'll understand." At this she looked even more perplexed. We followed her gaze to the pass-through from the kitchen to see another vacuous blond (male) contentedly preparing the evening's dishes. Jim was crestfallen, we were stunned, and dinner, by the way, was not particularly good. The gourmet had been brought low by something he could not have anticipated: Southern California, where everything is mere illusion.

Jim was himself an accomplished chef. Following my defense of my dissertation on Hungarian grammar in 1989, he prepared a ten-course Buddhist vegetarian feast at his house, reprising a similar feat he had performed for Kathleen, following her defense six years earlier. It was characteristic that he had remembered our dietary restrictions over five years, when other people we saw more regularly had to be reminded. (Ironically, we were no longer vegetarians by 1989, but I think I had the good sense not to tell him that in advance.) This meal, which included such intricate dishes as an anatomically faithful version of eel made from seaweed (skin), wheat gluten (flesh), and enoki mushrooms (guts??), was truly overwhelming. After valiantly working through the courses, we switched gears with a bûche de noël provided by one of the other guests, Erica Reiner, who also had served on my committee. To top it off we sipped 5 puttonyos Tokay, the strongest variety of a highly aromatic sherry-like wine from Hungary which Jim had purchased in honor of my linguistic interests. The enormous quantity of food, plus the slightly unusual combination of cuisines and flavors, led to a feeling which I later described in a letter to my former classmate George Fowler as "slightly queasy, but not altogether unpleasant." It was too much of a good thing, but it was a good thing.

Jim, of course, had an influence on more than my stomach. With my own distrust of authority, I found his anarchic attitude congenial. I was always particularly impressed by his insistence on the fact that the components of an individual linguistic theory might have no meaningful connection to one another, no matter what its creator claimed. His politics mirrored his personal philosophy. Although I don't know much about the details of his political life, he was probably one of the few people who could be called a "righteous libertarian": He genuinely distrusted government, but did not see that distrust as an excuse for the wholesale indulgence of all the baser instincts-greed, fear, and unrestrained self-interest-that official libertarianism seeks to unleash. He was a great fan of the German philosopher Paul Feyerabend, who advocated, essentially, anarchy in the development of science as the only means of achieving progress. One of his many humorously titled articles, "Madison Avenue, si, Pennsylvania Avenue, no!" from 1976, laid the blame for the rapid and unreflecting acceptance of transformational grammar by America's universities in the 1960s on the fact that government grant money was available in huge quantities to support this "fad." With this he prefigured today's unhappiness with government involvement in the development of educational and cultural policy in this country.

Jim McCawley was the most brilliant person I have ever met, and this is in no way meant to detract from the brilliance of my other professors at the University of Chicago, or of colleagues I have met since then. In conversation, it could be daunting-at times impossible-to try match his range of knowledge, his instantaneous and incisive linguistic analysis, and his humor. But the silence we now face is much harder to bear. Linguistics has lost a voice of reason, a repository of vast theoretical, practical, and historical linguistic knowledge, and one of its great, well, comedians. We have all lost a generous advisor and good friend. We will miss his impish grin when he found the perfect arcane linguistic datum to support (or demolish) an argument, the flash in his eyes when he was listening to a fool he was not suffering very gladly, and perhaps, most of all, his "enthusiastic two-thumbs-up" delivery, as though he were both Siskel and Ebert, giving us a very positive review of ourselves and our field.

Jeff Harlig

 


 

"Languages are weird and wonderful things," McCawley said last year. "As long as you are perceptive enough there is plenty to keep you happy and busy." What about this sentence below the four tiered selections?

Perfect (as Alex said, in bold or something)

Pretty good

Pretty bad

Horrible.

I remember when no one dared to have an opinion, because a sentence was too weird, he would say: "Imagine somebody is pointing a gun to your head, which one would you choose.?"What I remembered the most was going to his classes, not for my particular interest in the subjects, but because he taught me how to think. 'Don't leave a single example unturned', he said once. And so, I learnt how to think in Syntax, Semantics, Logic, Writing Systems, and all the weird classes I attended.

And this made me learn how to think in phonology, and in life.My favorite moments were, after I would ask a question, or came up with a particularly decent example, like "In Spanish/Yiddish this is ......" he would whistle a whistling surprise, and the best, reach inside his sweater, into his big left breast - probably a pocket with his glasses, pencils and the always needed notebook (and maybe his heart, likely too big for his chest) get the bulging notebook out, and write down what I had just said. (of course, he did it with everybody, but I'm just remembering my feelings now). The day I dared to discuss a sentence in English - about three years ago - and he got the booklet to write it down to find a good answer to my question, honestly, I don't think a Nobel Prize winner ever felt as proud as I did in that moment.

elisa/uruguay/chicago

 


 

Dear John,

I am Chungmin Lee from Korea (SNU), currently visiting UCLA. I express my deep sorrow at Professor Jim McCawley's sudden death. He was at my talk on negative polarity at the L.A. LSA meeting, and he talked about how he liked the Paul Getty Museum. Jim used to invite Asian students to his home to celebrate the Hangul (Korean alphabet) Day, which falls on October 9th. He admired the system so much like Geoffrey Sampsom and others. He could read Korean writings. So, if possible, please include 'such as the Korean alphabet Hangul, which he could read and write' after your wording of '---writing systems' in the future announcements. Jim visited Korea several times. All the Korean linguists feel affection with him. I would appreciate it.

Best,

Chungmin

 


 

Sali,

I heard about Jim's death while at the Cognitive Neuroscience Meeting in D.C. What a shock! Jim was a person who was such a mainstay to so many of us in linguistics that we never thought of the possibility that he would no longer be around. I can't imagine going to CLS without sitting near Jim and getting the latest stack of papers on his most recent thoughts and issues, without traipsing over to his house for a fantastic gourmet meal, or tagging along to the best restaurant at any linguistic meeting site. I never had Jim "officially" as a teacher in a course, and yet I cannot help but see him as a major teacher and mentor over the course of my career. I suspect this perspective is not uncommon. He welcomes us all and was a never ending resource of insights and support. I will miss him greatly. The world has changed.

--Judy Kegl

 


 

Dear Svetlana,

I am confused by so many e-mail messages, so I decide to send the following story to you. It's a story about Jim, which my friend told me right before I set off to Chicago seven years ago.

At the final stage of my friend's study in the Ohio State University, there was a linguistic conference held in the university. My friend's fiancée went to pick my friend up but missed her. He decided to sit in some sessions to see if he could run into her. My friend's fiancée was a a graduate student in the university too, and he knew nothing about linguistics.After coming back from the conference, he told my friend: "Lots of people spoke nonsense; only one strange guy did make sense." After his descriptions of the strange guy, my friend immediately knew that the admired guy was Jim because of Jim's peculiar appearance and accent.

Every time when I saw Jim, I thought of this story. I wish I had told him!

Fu-Wen

 


 

It must be less than 20% that I know about Jim, but I wish to express how much I owe him and what a wonderful experience it was to meet him. It was a joy to be cultivated through a variety of courses and writings of his. His example sentences were always unique and interesting. To talk about habitual sentences in the past tense (In GENERIC SENTENCES), for example, he wrote and spoke in a straight face:

George Washington drank Madeira.

Descartes treated his wife badly.

My grandfather kept his money in a mattress.

I couldn't help but laugh (rather than just smile) at the third one.His Linguistic Logic course was a nice breeze to me. The textbook does talk about "Everything that linguists have always wanted to know about logic ...." but notice that logic (in a narrow sense) is not the only thing it deals with. The whole book is written in relation to logic but the topics it covers include those in syntax, semantics, pragmatics and philosophy (of language). I once experienced somewhere long discussions on the famous sentence "The morning star is the evening star" in the philosophical tradition, which stem from Frege and assume only one dimension for 'reference'. After a struggle I reached an idea of introducing more than one dimension for reference but failed to give a clear and persuasive explanation of it to the professor of the course. After some time, last autumn, I took his Linguistic Logic course. I went on reading the remaining chapters and all of a sudden encountered the clear an elegant description of the above mentioned sentence on p.398 (under 11.3.14, the chapter of Modal logic). What an excitement!

The Philosophy of Science course was another sort of fresh air as Eddy already mentioned in detail. Also, it was nice to become more interested in Japanese (my native tongue) here, by attending Jim's Japanese Phonology and Syntax courses. I had a great opportunity to view Japanese from a different aspect (very systematically), with an excitement.Through all his courses, Jim provided me/us with a confortable and stimulating environment. His sharp insight, vast knowledge, sense of humor and warm personality were incorporated into the unique whole. Among all, I thank Jim for encouraging whatever questions and comments, of whatever relevance to the lecture itself. I personally tend to think about rather indirectly related matters, taking memos on the right side of my notebook. Jim's answers and comments to these 'questions' always cleared me up. He immediately mentioned more directly related bibliographies, many of which were his own work, to my amazement. He said right or wrong, clearly, but it was only in the acceptability judgement that I ever heard him say bad. In contrast, as for something good, he really exaggerated it, saying "Great!", "Terrific!", "That's a VERY nice example!", "That's an INTEREsting idea! Go on!"...... Thus there was no need at all to be intimidated in front of such a great scholar. No need to try to look good. All we were encouraged was, I think, to BE good, to any extent.

One day, when I learned about Goffman's notion of participant roles, I made up a variety of idiosyncratic cases and my analysis of them, in terms of Goffman's original distinction (between Animator, Author and Principal) and Jim's additional dimension of primary/secondary, and asked Jim for comments. When he reached my example of someone's uttering a proverb "Strike while the iron is hot!", he said after a short while, "This is what my father (grandfather?) was ALWAYS saying to me." It must be what he never failed to do. In his rather short but extremely rich life of 61 years, I'm pretty sure, he never wasted a minute.

After that horrible news, any big man can easily look like Jim, disillusioning me in a second: it's hard to find such a great figure, not to mention. His friendliness was far from superficial but came from a great love to people and coexisted with a dignity in a true sense. The audio-visual information of Jim remains so vivid in me that I even now feel as if we were in a group nightmare. How nice it would be if Jim could say again, anomg all, "Do you have any questions or requests in the remaining minus four minutes?"

With greatest thanks,

Yoko Mizuta

 


 

Dear Professor Mufwene,

I am (just barely) a professional writer and therefore almost certainly a dreadful linguist. I met Jim McCawley when I came to the University of Chicago as a graduate student in the early '80s. Although we were in different fields, Jim and I became quick friends because of other mutual interests. We both attended libertarian meetings on campus and Jim was proud of his libertarian campaigns. Three times he ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for Trustee of University of Illinois. In his CV on the UC Linguistics Department web page, he even lists the number of votes he received each time.

Eating out with Jim was an unalloyed pleasure. Not just because he knew where to eat and how to eat, but because the people at restaurants knew him, too. I recall one occasion when a handful of us joined Jim for a meal at a small Peruvian restaurant in Chicago and were given VIP service by the owner who greeted Jim, nearly hollering, "Professor! Professor! How good to see you again!"

While I believe the New York Times was correct in reporting that he never learned to drive a car, it is unfair to say he was "preternaturally unphysical." What Hyde Parker had not seen Jim breezing by on his bicycle which took him not only to his university department but to various errands around the neighborhood? I remember he used to say that he could measure the severity of a Chicago winter by the number of days he couldn't ride his bike to campus.

Jim was out of the country on one of his many wonderful trips when I was married, so he couldn't attend the wedding. But his was the first gift to arrive: a cookbook of course! I treasure that gift, along with so many others from this generous man.I last saw Jim on Friday, March 26th of this year. We bumped into each other at Symphony Center for the concert peformance of Arnold Schoenberg's opera *Moses und Aron*, conducted by Pierre Boulez. Jim eagerly showed me the musical score which he had checked out of the Regenstein. He was interested in how Schoenberg had notated the Sprechstimme role of Moses. Jim opened his score and showed me how the part of Moses was written exactly like a singing part EXCEPT every note had an "x" through it. Jim, with his careful attention to detail, told me that he had been listening to the Solti recording and noted that to the extent that the performer did have some variation in tone it seemed to bear no relation whatever to the score: The written part would go up, he said, but this fellow's voice would fall. He also had a knack for finding the usual or the amusing. He showed me the stage directions concerning the four naked virgins. Schoenberg wrote, to Jim's amusement: "Naked to the extent that the rules and necessities of the stage allow and require." I put that in my music review, thanks to Jim.

I had hoped that Jim would accompany me to the concert I'm reviewing this week. I've decided to go alone and will think of him when I see that empty seat next to me.

I have learned that his lovely cat (who but Jim would think of naming her after a Chinese concubine of centuries long past?) is in caring hands. She, like all of us who loved Jim, will never be the same.

M.L. Rantala

 


 

I am so saddened to learn of Jim McCawley's passing. He was everyone's--certainly my own--favorite iconoclastic linguist. His wit and insight into linguistic conundrums as well as his passion for Chinese food will be sorely missed. I feel stupid--and stupified--in not being able just now to say more about such a wonderful human being. All of us who knew him will miss him extremely.

--Kenneth C. Hill

 


 

Dear Sali,

Please convey my sympathy to the family of Jim McCawley. I was quite saddened by the bad news when I recoeved it from Maggie Reynolds on Sunday. Although I had little reason to be in frequent touch with Jim outside LSA activities, I always enjoyed seeing him and chatting with him. In addition to my respect for his scholarship, I found his warmth and friendliness very appealing.

Arthur Abramson

 


 

Hi, John--

I hope this message reaches you--I was at the airport today reading the paper and caught the sad news of Jim's death--I'm really sorry. I remember the day when he had a bunch of us up to his apartment to watch Japanese sign language on news broadcasts--and the occasiona was everything Jim could be: smart, funny, and not without something unusual to eat. I guess the one small consolation is that the obituary was beautifully written--one of the best I've read in the NYT in years. I hope everything is going well for you.With warm regards,

Joe Grigely

 


 

John:

I hope someone throws a bash in Hyde Park on quatorze juillet in memory of Jim. My wife and I brought New Orleans bread pudding to several of his Bastille Day parties. The last time I dined with him, over a year ago, I thought, as he talked to me about blending and the evolution of syntax, "Jim never ages, and his Glaswegian accent never fades." I was only half right. Best,

Mark Turner

 


 

Dear Mr. Mufwene,

I've been reading all of the emails over uclinguist, and it's so amazing to see what a family the linguistics department and the international linguistics community is. I'm somewhat on the outside, perhaps speaking a little bit for some of the undergraduates who, even if not a core part of the U of C linguistics department, are in shock as well. Few of us knew Mr. McCawley all that well, but a good many of us had the pleasure of being in his class for one quarter or more and experiencing his amazing charm, which all his friends, colleagues, and students have managed to convey over the listserve.

As I mentionned to you earlier today, Mr. McCawley taught my mother's intro to linguistics course towards the very beginning of his career, and taught me towards the end. I'm sure he never knew either of our names--- we were both quiet voices in class--- but both of us are grieving to hear that one of the most delightful common experiences we shared is gone from this world.If I may be so bold as to speak on behalf of a whole bunch of undergraduates AND my mother all in the same email, I want to express our heartfelt condolences to Mr. McCawley's family, to the department, and to everybody who is feeling this loss right now.

Sincerely,

Madeline Ravich

 


 

Perhaps those who attended the wake last night and heard Jim's family tell us so movingly how he would sing the following two songs at family gatherings might appreciate seeing the words below, taken from the Digital Tradition folksong database at http://www.mudcat.org (see also the international folksong index at http://argo.acronet.net/~robokopp/folkindx.htm)

Now, I think we have to imagine Jim singing these with the strong Glasgow accent that I recall him affecting once while sitting at a small portable piano and singing at one of the more recent Goodspeed Days.

Nancy

Click for Jim's songs.

 


 

Dear colleagues:

I have assembled a sort of found poem from example sentences in volume one of Jim's syntax textbook. This is something that I wanted to do for a long time (and probably I'm not the first); it is sad that I didn't get to it sooner, because I wish I could have communicated to Jim how much I love his amazing book.Not wanting to arbitrarily impose it on all of you, I have posted it on my student-www Web page. I am of course unsatisfied with the final product. But it's the thought that counts-- that's what I keep telling myself.

The address is: http://student-www.uchicago.edu/users/japontiu/jim.html

Best wishes,

Jason.Pontius

 


 

Dear Salikoko Mufwene,

This is no time to "get acquainted", but I have thought and thought again and again about your idea that certain prefixes are inflectoinal here and derivational there, which I got from the way you expressed it in I think an early-80s BLS paper. Jim, in 1985, had speculated about things I could correspond with you about. He was great in the domain of putting people in touch, and in lots of other ways we will now be thinking about. I was coincidentally back in mental touch with Jim. Last week, I had picked up _The Joy of Grammar_ in our library and was wondering how to make the spirit of his work, and what he had done to everybody's work, more widely available in our very technicalized environment. I had started giving our kids references to that book on Monday. And then, Tuesday morning, Alice Davison's e-mail reaches me. I first met Jim at a conference as many of us did, back in 1976 at NELS (at MIT), and found, later, that he was an incredible renewer and picker-upper of even the most tenuous relationships, which did not seem tenuous from the way he treated them. In 1978, watching him perform after all the major talks, Terry Langendoen characterized his behaviour (in a semi-public corridor conversation) as "theory-free helpfulness". (NELS at CUNY.) I got to know him better when we stole him for Deccan College, Pune (he had basically come to Hyderabad for a longish workshop) in 1981, and we met again in Chicago in May 85 (I crashed at his house, and remember Millstone) and at much greater length in Delhi in Aug 85, where we were sort of colleagues at a syntax summer institute. There was a sustained dialogue there, because I was an avid reader of his writings (had always been, sinnce 1971) and kept asking about the turns his thinking was taking as we all negotiated the perilous shoals of the 70s and 80s. And because he shared with me an interest in Japan, and in science fictionn, and in making linguistics respond to the whole world of thinking and not just a few technical questions.These have become minority interests, as you know.

Those of us who care will have to do something to do some serious cherishing. With Jim no longer with us, this will be harder. Sharing, in Jim, had taken on the proportionns of a fine art.The Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies, at the University of Hyderabad, had a condolence meeting Tuesday 14 Apr at 2.30, with the Centre's Head, Prof. Udaya Narayana Singh, chairing. He and I and two other colleagues (Dr Panchanan Mohanty and Dr G. Umamaheswara Rao) remembered Jim. We were having some difficulty taking it in. Only first year students were present, and it was a sobering experience to find that we had to _tell_ them about Jim's work, and spirit. The "maisntream", which determines syllabi and agendas, has been cruel, and grossly unfair.Take care.

Probal Das Gupta

 


 

Professor Mufwene: May I add a brief reminiscence of Jim, having received your shocking news? I first met Jim McCawley in the early sixties. This was at MIT, where there was an ongoing seminar on the grammar of Japanese. One year when Noam was away, I was honored to sit in as chairman of this group, and its most brilliant and active participant was Jim.We never failed to speak together at meetings (most recently this year at the LSA in LA), and one always left a talk with Jim with a smile. His brilliant and friendly humor, however, masked a trenchant and powerful style of discussion and argument, as shown for example in his review of Noam's Studies in Generative Grammar, which I am now rereading as a memorial to him. Jim was a beautiful person and a brilliant linguist, absolutely irreplaceable.May his memory remain forever with us!

Yours, Karl V. Teeter, Professor of Linguistics Emeritus, Harvard University

 


 

I have little to add to the affecting tributes and evocations I have been reading these last few days: I didn't work with Jim McCawley after that first-year course in Syntax and never got to know him very well. But I have a debt to discharge. Jim's annual restaurant guide was an integral part of our twelve years in Chicago. A well-thumbed copy lay always by our CTA map, and then, when we finally got a car, took up permanent residence in our glove compartment. It could turn the dullest errand into a treat: its thoroughness ensured that, no matter where we went, there was always a McCawley-recommended eating establishment nearby. The tips contained therein on ethnic grocery stores were a boon, as well. Thanks to Jim, we actually found fresh mangosteens on Argyle, to my Sri Lankan-born husband's delight and to the envy, apparently, of every other Sri Lankan in North America. I always intended to mention this to him.

Anne David

Annapolis

 


 

Since I learned from you the sad news about Jim, so many things about Jim have come back to my mind vividly alive. He was my teacher, and I took so many courses from him. He was also chairman of my dissertation committee. Many famous linguists have praised him for his achievements. As his student, I will share with you one "small" thing of his. After the defense of my dissertation, he invited me and my family to dinner in his apartment to celebrate. He cooked a full banquet of Chinese food. He cooked the Chinese food my hometown style. That's the kind of food my mother cooks for me when I go to see her. I have always remembered this dinner. Jim will always be remembered.

Zixin Jiang

 


 

I was sad to hear of the untimely and sudden end of Jim's journey with us. I don't feel bad so much for Jim, but for us who will have to do without him, and especially you folks at UC. I chose to go to UC because of the eclectic array of excellent teachers and students there. Although it is hard to rank the stars, in my mind Jim is way way up there. I will always be grateful to him for how he sparked my mind in his stolid yet solid way. Oh, and for the great food he introduced me to. And for the international holiday he introduced us to; may he be commemorated annually. When is it, by the way?

I think of you all, but especially now. And I owe some of you letters (and maybe vice versa).

Let us be strong; let us honor Jim the way he would want: by facing the bright light of reason without flinching, and by examining the shadow it casts. If you can see no shadow, then you have got it right! And spring will come early.

Love to you all,

Jeff Leer

 


 

Dear Sali,

Such a good heart but apparently so vulnerable. The news of Jim McCawley's passing tears my heart as it must those of my fellow Korean linguists who have had the fortune of knowing him. I remember the day I met Jim in Korea when he came to give a lecture at Seoul National University in 1973 as if it were yesterday. He and Noriko Akatsuka honored my parents' home with their visit. Jim signed again on the same page of my parents' guest book a quarter of century later, in a late summer day of 1997. This time he was back in Korea as the keynote speaker in an international conference in Seoul commemorating the 600th birthday of Korea's great linguist, King Sejong, who invented the Korean alphabet and for whom Jim had infinite admiration.

Like most Korean linguists, I have maintained enormous respect and affection for Jim. He was inspiring as a linguist, endearing as a human being, and constant as a friend. Jim was a cultured man in the true sense of the word, with a wide range of interest and expertise, from philosophy to piano-playing. He was fascinated by the Korean writing system, and he held an annual open house at his home on the "Han'gul Day," to celebrate its invention. He was not only a famous cook-book writer but a bon vivant, a true connoisseur of all kinds of cuisine: for Jim, civilized life was not possible without good food.

I vividly remember him trying and loving a rather unusual, spicy "manultchong" condiment made from garlic stems that my mother had wanted to serve to only the Koreans among the guests. He often told me how he loved being in Chicago, the city that provided good linguistics, fine food, and beautiful music and arts. Always looking a bit already in Heaven, I sometimes thought that angels must look a little like Jim.

Jim was also a great diplomat and ice-breaker. I remember my very first presentation of a conference paper after my Ph.D.--at the 1976 CLS of which you were one of the organizers as I recall. My time keeper told me my time was up when I had barely finished reading a half of my paper. At first, there was a dead silence during the question-and-answer period. Jim McCawley saved my face by making a positive comment and even referring me to a scholar whose line of thought might be similar to mine. I was so relieved, but at the same time I was impressed that he could get what I was trying to say without listening to the whole paper. I was also enormously flattered when he told me that he was using my dissertation as one of the three reading materials in a seminar he was teaching.

I already miss Jim so much. I will miss his Christmas card with a cute little Santa Claus, telling me about another Korean restaurant he has just discovered in Chicago. I will miss him at our next dinner party with a bunch of linguists. Especially if I see "manultchong" on the table. But I will smile thinking how much in common Jim McCawley and King Sejong had, and how they must be carrying on an eternal discussion in linguistics Jim so enjoyed in this life.

Young-Key Kim-Renaud

 


 

Je suis effectivement très triste d'apprendre cette nouvelle, brutale. J'ai soudain un tas d'images qui me reviennent. Séoul, les propos à la fois très savants et très accessibles de cet homme, l'accolade avec ton père lors de cette magnifique soirée chez toi et cette silhouette un peu hors du temps, dans les rue de Séoul. La Corée perd un véritable ami, ta famille aussi. Je partage ta peine.

Jean-Pierre Jaffré

(I am indeed very sad to learn the news, so brutal. All of a sudden I have a wave of images that come back to me. Seoul, the ideas that were both scientifically sophisticated and very accessible from this man, the accolade with your father at that magnificent evening at your house and that silhouette a bit out of time, in the streets of Seoul. Korea has lost a true friend, your family too. I share your grief.)

 


 

First of all - on behalf of the organizers of the first International Summer School >Philosophy of Language and Sign in 20 th Century< let me offer the deepest sympathies to Prof. McCawley's family, friends, and colleagues. It's terrible what has happened. I can't believe. The first time I met Prof. McCawley was Methesius Lectures in Prague. I can't forget his kindness and hospitality. I had a lot of questions concerning Austin's philosophy. After a meeting in the main building of Charles University he patiently answered all my rather trivial (from linguists point of view, perhaps) questions. And then we talked about Latvia, and Baltic Countries. He remembered short visit in Riga a couple of years ago. He told me that it was some kind of commitment to visit Riga, because his teacher Morris Halle was born there... And he wanted to come to Latvia again and to see the nice small towns in Kurzeme (one of the country region in Latvia) . The other wish was to listen to the Organ of Riga Cathedral. It would come true - he should be one of the main lecturers at the first interdisciplinary summer school >Philosophy of Language and Sign in 20 th Century< in Latvia, August `99..... At the April 6 he sent me an email that he has made the last remarks in the handouts for the summer school. ..... I can't say nothing more. Thank you, Jim. I will never forget you. World is completely different without you.

Jurgis Skilters Secretary of Latvian-German Society of Philosophy

Mainz, Riga

 

 


 

 

Dear John,

What terrible news about Jim McCawley! Please accept my deepest sympathy on the loss of your colleague and friend. If he'd lived he might have written a real intellectual history of lingx. in the 20th century...Bob Channon emailed me the news, says there will be some reminiscences at a session of CLS on Fri 23rd. I'll be thinking of you all. Best,

Katya Chvany

 


 

Some reflections about Jim . . .

It's been 9 years since I left Chicago, and yet I can still hear the way Jim would start a conversation with that quick abbreviated "So . . .". In fact, very few of our conversations were about Linguistics. We were much more comfortable talking about food.

We shared receipes, names of restaurants, cooking tips. One summer Jim went to Japan and brought me back a ginger grater . . . which I still use almost every day. One time he was nice enough to invite a few of us to a small dinner at his house where every dish was a vegetable masquerading as a meat: mashed potatoes in the form of a fish, with uncooked spaghetti placed as bones . . . He brought each dish out of the kitchen with this characteristic look of pleasure . . . almost glee. That kind of pleasure in eating, and singing, and travel and his cat, as well as linguistic acceptability judgements -- these were a lovely legacy that Jim passed to me about how one can be an academic, and love many other things in life with the same kind of passion.

Professor Justine Cassell

 


 

Please allow me to identify myself as a colleague of Dr. Ralph Chung. After exchanging several e-mails with Dr. McCawley, I was greatly shocked and saddened to learn of his death. I still find it hard to accept the fact that he is gone. I had just received his e-mail on the 8th that he was willing to be my host while I conducted my research under a Fulbright grant during the 1999-2000 academic year at the University of Chicago. What a loss to those who loved him and have benefited from his assistance. My heart goes out to you, his family and your colleagues in the Linguistics Department.

With many condolences, 
Pi-chong Su, Ed.D. 
Professor of English and Director of the Center for Research and Development 
in Humanities Education 
National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan, R.O.C.

 

 


 

Dear Barbara:

Hello! Kostas Kazazis informs me that you have been appointed as the spokesperson on behalf of the students for Jim's memorial. I am sorry to be contacting you so late. But I only found Kostas' message a few minutes ago. It was Easter week for us and I only got back from my parents' home today. To say that I was shocked to hear the news of Jim's passing away does not exactly reflect what I felt. To be more exact, I was taken aback because someone so active and fully engaged in living passed away so suddenly. Jim's vitality left no margin for contemplating death; in a way his very vitality and constant activity seemed to be defying it.I have many memories of Jim, memories reflecting his many sides--at least, the ones I could appreciate or understand at all given my own limitations. I have often described Jim to friends who did not know him as the one real genius I ever came across. But we, the community of the Linguistics Dept. at Chicago, know that this statement is only begins to tell the story. For Jim was much more that this.To me he was a gifted and enlightened teacher who opened new horizons for his students; a teacher who tought them to doubt and to test; a teacher who sought connections between his own field and seemingly unrelated "stuff". I have always considered it a great honor to have been his student--apart from feeling lucky to have been exposed to his ideas and the educational experience he offered; and this has nothing to do with feeling "lucky" to have had "famous teachers". It goes beyond that and stays with you as you grow older (and older we have all grown) and try to justify the reasons that kept you going through your studies; the reason why you do not protest as much about the fact that linguistics is not lucrative. I must say that the experience of working with Jim, and many others, were reason enough for me, as it gave me something to aspire to.But Jim was not only a teacher to us who knew him. He was an affable man with a great sense of humor. He was also the host of great parties and a skilled cook with a taste for the unfamiliar who shared with us many memorable culinary adventures. This combination of affability, inquisitiveness and wit makes Jim quite memorable. I hope you are doing well, Barbara!

Best regards,

Costas Canakis

 


 

The Westin Bonaventure ballroom was beginning to fill up when theformer student, only six years Jim's junior and now a full professorhimself, happened upon Jim McCawley, the man most responsible for theformer student's having decided to become a linguist. Predictably,though they hadn't seen each other in nearly three years and had onlycrossed paths a dozen or so times since Jim had transformed himselffrom beloved teacher to esteemed colleague with an affirmative vote onthe student's dissertation, Jim's face blossomed into a massive,wide-eyed, toothy grin as the two vigorously shook hands.After threading their way through the crowd, pausing repeatedly toacknowledge greetings for Jim, they sat together in the front row ofthe second bank of seats, No small talk got in the way of their movingdirectly to their constant joint purpose, to do linguistics: Swinginghis rumpled briefcase up onto his lap, Jim leafed through it, pullingout paper after paper in lieu of what could otherwise have required a four-hour recitation of the fruits of the last 18 months or so of hisscholarly production. Most of the gifts came with the usual "Here'smy chapter in the book so-and-so put together for such-and-such apress", but when he got to his favorite, an annual compendium oflinguistic oddities, Jim paused to crow over a few wonderful publishedexamples of Bach-Peters sentences, and was rewarded by hiswell-trained student with a neat little analogy between Bach-Peterssentences and M.C. Escher prints, such as the Belvedere, which can be captioned "The man who is climbing it doesn't realize theimpossibility of getting up the ladder he is climbing."As soon as Jim had finished voraciously inscribing the deliciousexample in the back of the checkbook he used as an ever-ready notepad,the two faced forward to hear the plenary speaker. The topic was afamiliar one to Jim -- his frequent asides included a rueful referenceto the fact that he had demolished more than one of the speaker's arguments in a review he'd published several years before -- but hisattention never flagged, and his good humor never diminished.When the talk was over, Jim was the first to jump to the microphone:"Can you please help me understand something that has always puzzledme about the way many linguists use the term 'universal grammar'?When you say that something is a fact of universal grammar, are youusing the word grammar as a count noun or a mass noun? In my view,there may be lots of universal grammar around without their _a_universal grammar." The speaker of course provided the standardwaffling response to this question, and didn't seem to realize thatmany in the audience would conclude that this question undermined theentire foundation of the talk he had given. But Jim didn't press thepoint, and when the discussion period ended he applauded loudly, hishands raised high over his head, his sparkling eyes riveted affectionately on those of the speaker, and his mouth broadened into awinning smile.As they rose from their seats to sidle together down the center aisleand out of the room, the two -- still truly teacher and studentdespite the passage of time and changes of status -- exchanged remarksabout how much had changed and how little had changed in the 30-plusyears they'd been doing linguistics together. When they got to thefoyer, the former student was turning to ask if Jim could join him fordinner when a senior figure, whose comments earlier in the day hadmade the student think that he might not wait another decade to cometo a meeting of this professional society, pulled Jim aside to whisperabout dinner arrangements for Jim and the other past presidents.Realizing instantly what he'd do with his evening, the student gaveJim a smiling wave good-bye and went up to his room to start workinghis way through the pile of goodies he'd greedily stuffed into hisfolio. Best. 'Bye. Steve H Stephen Straight -- Anthro, Ling, & Langs Across the Curric (LxC)

 


 

I can't believe Jim is gone. I heard the news, four days after, while visiting Stanford.I first met Jim as an undergraduate at Chicago, 1975-78. Generative semantics was in twilight, but no matter. I had read enough linguistics and philosophy to know that I wanted to be at Chicago. It was a great time: CLS was still a center of foment, and there were the monthly seminars and the parties. Jim didn't teach any of the required classes those years, but I made sure to sit in on his Lexical Semantics class, and wrote my master's dissertation under him. I read everything of Jim's that I could get my hands on, and continued to do so every time I ran into Jim at meetings, traveling like a linguistic Santa Claus with his big bag of new papers, restaurant guides, satires, and other goodies to give to each and all. I learned to associate linguistics not just with philosophy but also classical music and great food, all passions I shared with Jim. In the years after graduating I didn't see Jim enough, but I tried, and had quite a few more great meals and conversations.On a return trip to Chicago, at a CLS meeting, I was invited to a party at Jim's. The food was African that time---Jim never stopped exploring and discovering. If I wasn't already amazed by Jim's prodigality, I learned that he had been playing the harpsichord, and had read all of Domenico Scarlatti's 555 harpsichord sonatas(!!). Not daunted by that feat, he was going on to read Antonio Soler's 120 sonatas. Last year I at last began to emulate Jim, albeit on a piano; I was happy to be able to tell him the last time I saw him. I stopped after Scarlatti's Sonata 112; but I intend to continue with the other 443 in honor and memory of Jim.

I had only glimpses of other sides of Jim, revealed in his closer friendships...in a back room at a Chicago linguistic party, singing sad songs with Haj Ross accompanying him on the guitar...in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, earnestly deciding on our group's menu with George Lakoff, like two excited boys at a fair...No memorial to Jim can be without its personal anecdote, the flash of marvelousness that symbolizes the whole that Jim meant for us all. Jim decided to take a family trip home to Glasgow a couple years ago, and contacted me to arrange a talk at Manchester. I eagerly obliged (and Jim was rewarded by a huge audience bursting the seams of the seminar room we normally used). It goes without saying that I arranged to have as many meals as possible with Jim, after he was---willingly!---sent off to investigate Manchester's Chinatown. He reported back that a small Cantonese restaurant on a side street had an interesting Chinese language menu, and a small party went to dinner with him there on his last night before returning to Chicago.

We entered the restaurant, were seated, and then Jim asked for the Chinese language menu. The waitress was surprised and took a bit of persuading. Jim set to work, inspecting the menu and beginning to write down the choices. (He asked us what we would like to eat, and we unhesitatingly handed our proxy votes to him.) The waitress kept coming back to stare at him, completely incredulous. One time she pointed to something on the menu and said "What's that?". Jim replied, "A kind of mushroom," and described it. She went away amazed; and then it was our turn: Jim turned to us and said "That's not the usual character for that mushroom". Needless to say, the food was fabulous and the company terrific. We'll never forget you, Jim.

Bill Croft Department of Linguistics University of Manchester, UK

 


 

The news of Jim's untimely death came as a shock to all his friends in Stockholm. We would be grateful if the message below could be read at the CLS meeting on Friday. (The Swedish at the end is pronounced roughly as Tuck Yim, with the sentence accent on the first word.)

In shared mourning,

Jan Anward

It was with a deep sense of loss that we received the news of Jim's death. Jim played an important role in the development of Swedish linguistics, by being one of the inspiring teachers at the Scandinavian Summer Schools of Linguistics in 1969 - 1971, which brought up almost the entire generation of senior professors in linguistics in Scandinavia. He also became a dear friend to many of us at the Department of Linguistics in Stockholm and visited us several times, particularly in the seventies. He set a standard for us all through his deep respect - and love - for linguistic facts, his healthy distrust of received authorities, and his erudite and heterodox views on just about every imaginable aspect of science and life. We will treasure his memory in our hearts.In Swedish (which Jim of course fast learnt some): Tack Jim!

 


 

Dear Victor,

I just got back from SECOL and was shocked to read Sali's post on the LinguistList that Jim had died. Like a couple of other Chicago people who shall remain nameless, Jim was always quietly encouraging to me when my work seemed to be going in strange directions (or no particular direction at all). I cannot make the memorial service, but I shall miss him.

Carl Mills

 


 

Dear Rob, Thank you very much for your message. Just to say I forwarded your sad news to the guys, and we would like to say how very sorry we are to hear about Jim McCawley. It must be hard to take, and a great loss - to your department and to linguistics as a whole. Our best wishes to you, Lynn. University of Queensland, Australia

 

 


 

Dear Sali, dear colleagues and friends of Jim McCawley, dear relatives!

In the name of the Department of Slavic languages and literatures of the University of Potsdam and also in the name of the Linguistic Department I deeply express my/our sorrow about the sudden and unexpected death of my/our wonderfull colleague and friend, Prof. Dr. Jim McCawley.I/we still cannot believe that such a healthy, energetic and wonderful colleague passed away so soon. We met in 1996 on occassion of a linguistic conference in my hometown Prague. Since that time we liked each other, as I feel we found many common denominators in our professional and private lifes. He was invited to Berlin and Potsdam in 1997 and he held very interesting papers on Syntax and Semantics, on Logic (I always wanted to ask * and was not ashamed to do so). I was just applying for a stipend at DFG to visit Jim and his clolleagues this year in September or October. Besides professional interests we shared the interests in music and good food. I will never forget him.
Peter Kosta
Prof.Dr. Peter Kosta 
Universitaet Potsdam 
Institut fuer Slavistik 
Westslavische Sprachwissenschaft 
Postfach 60 15 53 
D-14415 Potsdam

 


 

 


 

Dear Salikoko,

This message is to let you know that, as a former student of Jim McCawley, I am with all of you in my thoughts in remembering the wonderful human being that Jim was. As a linguist, Jim stood for many of the ideals of linguistics at Chicago: a respect for data combined with theoretical rigor, an ear for unusual linguistic usage often to be found in the most usual of circumstances, and a sweeping command over -- and love for -- diverse intellectual and cultural domains. Jim embodied, for me, multiculturalism at its splendid best.At a more personal level, Jim was an unwavering source of support and inspiration through all those years I spent at Chicago as a graduate student. It is with great gratitude that I remember him, as do many people the world over.

Tista Bagchi Department of Linguistics University of Delhi

 


 

Dear Friends,

The unthinkable has happened and the loss that we feel is incomprehensible. Jim was so much to so many, and we are united in our various experiences with Jim by the love and the special place that he taught us to have for language, for music, for food, for each other, and especially for him. How is it possible to imagine our days, our discipline without Jim there. He was supposed to be here with us for as long as we each could imagine. To giggle, to question, to explain, to enhance every moment we were able to share with him. Jim was one of the most human people I have ever known. He welcomed everyone. I remember when, as a grad student, I was still taking classes and Jim came around with his yearly survey of what students might be interested in taking from him the following year. He asked me, a sociolinguist/dialectologist, if I would consider taking his class on Jespersen. We shared a love of Jespersen, though I can only dream of coming to understand 'OJ' as Jim did. When I realized that most of the other students would be coming from advanced syntax I confessed that I would probably not be able to write a paper on analytic syntax as everyone else would. To make a long story short, Jim made me feel welcomed in his classroom, despite not being a syntactician, and even found wonderful and obscure articles on issues of language and society/gender by Jespersen that had yet to be translated from Danish. I translated these for Jim and so we laughed, we thought, we analyzed this work together and I learned that linguistics doesn't have to be such a divided field; that I too could be a part of Jim's wonderful world. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences, and I've been fotunate enough to read most of what's been posted thus far. It's taken me a little time to be able to write this; it is difficult to reconstruct one's idea of reality so suddenly. How lucky we all have been to have had the chance to know Jim so similarly and yet so differently. Let us not forget to be to each other as Jim was to each of us.

Sincerely,

Lisa Ann Lane Assistant Professor of Linguistics Texas A&M University

 


 

Dear members in the linguistic circle,

I have just come back from Okinawa, and ever since the moment of my arrival at Chicago I cannot help feeling strongly how important and precious it is to be able to share some thoughts and memories on Jim with so many people in and around our department. Thanks to all of you who were thinking of me while I was still in Japan wondering whether or not I should be informed of this sad news in such a far away from Chicago, I find comfort in realizing that I was not alone when I opened my email to receive shocking news at my sister's computer at home.Five years ago when Jim was in Taiwan teaching at National Tsing Hua University, he made a short trip to Okinawa. During such a brief stay in kinawa, Jim left so many fond memories in hearts of Okinawan linguists and my family. I could share with you those wonderful words and memories they recounted of "Makooree- sensei" as they call him with deep respect and affections, but it seems that simply repeating those words on screen is still too overwhelming me with grief.owever, one thing that struck me most is that when I told this sad news to some professors who met Jim in Okinawa, the very first words every one of them uttered was "how sad that we lost such a good, wonderful person." I want you to know that you can also find some people in a small island like Okinawa who are equally able to share with us a genuine sense of humanity of Jim.

Noriko Takara

 


 

Mourning Jim is my subject, so (anaphoric'ly) is what i'm doing, (pseudo-Gaelic'ly) is what i am, (pseudo-poetic'ly) is what *i'm. How else to deal with my version of our loss? In Sali's words, i will "miss terribly" a friend hitherto untouched by time, who could always take up a conversation where we left off, as if the decades had been only a few hours of intense study, of attentive observation, of simple joy in the beauties of life: mexicanismos on Chicago tv, Kropotkin's humanism, srpskohrvatski akcenat, and other things we always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask...anybody else. From a friend/neighbor's computer, greetings to all who miss Jim, from Tekastiaks (Roy Wright)

 


 

I have just returned from Sydney, and so far have spent most of my hours back here in Philadelphia reading with tears in my eyes the many beautiful memories of Jim posted to this list. I am glad I was able to come into Chicago on the Monday after he passed away, and to be with my dear friends, many of whom I came to know because of Jim. However, since, like most of us, I was in a state of shock on that Monday, I would like to now, if I may, add a few memories of my own.

First of all, like many of us, I came to the University of Chicago because of Jim. I first came to know Jim through the two volumes of his syntax book. The insights and scientific discoveries contained in these two volumes were not what immediately attracted me to him. I was simply not intelligent enough and not enough of a linguist yet. What attracted me was the personality - the wit - that was present in this text. And, above all, in my opinion, Jim had wit - that rare 17th century quality that sadly seems to no longer be such a priority in educated life. Jim's books and articles are truly an example of Roland Barthes' notion of "writing the body" - the sheer force of Jim's personality, the enormous beauty of this personality, bled through between the lines of the most technical discussion of syntax, for example. Thanks to Sali, and the stories of the University of Chicago that he would regale us provincial linguist-wannabees with when I was a student of his at the University of Georgia, I also came to know Jim before even meeting him. This Jim McCawley and his department, so passionately described by Sali over many a post-class beer, was a place I simply had to check out.Actually, as I was fortunate enough to tell Jim, by sheer fluke, just a few days before he died, it was not, because of my thick-headedness, until the third quarter of my first year in the program, that I was hit - suddenly and like a Mac truck - by the deepest intellectual insights that are contained in those volumes. In the spring quarter of that first year, I took Jim's "Topics in English Syntax" course, in which we were able to delve more deeply into that second volume, and it was then that I came to see the utter beauty and other-worldiness* of Jim's notion of a semantic structure, and how it motivated surface distributions. I actually remember, quite well, the moment when, during this course, the full force of Jim's discovery hit me in the face. Like many of life's important moments, I suppose, it was a very punctuated moment, oddly enough, in spite of the fact that I had already been built up and charmed so steadily by the first volume. It was, as I recall, over breakfast one morning with my wife. I looked up, and with my characteristic lack of eloquence, uttered an expletive, followed by a declaration that what I was reading was a scientific discovery of the first order - the real thing. It was a very cool spine-chilling moment. As I have mentioned, I consider myself blessed in that I was able to actually, even so sadly after the fact, describe to Jim the phenomenology of this experience, a few days before he died.

I had this recent communication with Jim because Jim and I had actually become, for the first time, quite close - despite my bugging the living hell out of him about my dissertation. That is, I am ashamed to report that it was not until so late that I actually became real FRIENDS with Jim. We had always been friendly, of course, and I had this intellectual love for him as I have described. And Jim had never hesitated to help or bail me out academically, or to take time out of his busy schedule to get some elementary point across to me - as Jim would often say - "saying the same thing but using more words and speaking slower this time." But thanks to a horrible immaturity on my part, for years I was afraid to get close to Jim outside of class because, quite frankly, the sheer stature of his intellect intimidated me, and I was always too insecure to develop a friendship. But over the last year, for reasons that are still not completely clear to me - I think because other things entered my life that competed with linguistics - Jim and I actually became friends. Real friends. And it was a great thing. One of the great things of my life that will always occupy permanent real estate in my heart. I think we were able to become friends - utterly outside of linguistics (my linguistic endeavors being rather trivial) because we both passionately loved two things in common, opera and the city of Berlin (though Jim's most favorite German city was Dresden - he was constantly pushing me to go there). Jim was to have come to my house here in Philadelphia for a weekend this spring to see Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio with me, and we were going to eat at Victor's, an Italian restaurant in South Philly where the all the waitpersons are students at Curtis and the Academy of Vocal Arts; every few minutes they stop everything and sing arias from various operas. I was dying to take Jim there.

I mean Jim, as you all know, was a passionate person. He was a person who really LOVED certain things. So over opera and Berlin, Jim and I became friends - the oddest couple I can think of - a great world figure, on the one hand, and on the other an insecure Southerner who, frankly, has always felt out of place among all the powerful intellects at the University of Chicago. This friendship was a great and utterly unexpected bonus to me. I mean I loved the hell out of that guy - he was a fantastic master of life, and I loved being around him. I loved seeing him, and we always laughed - immediately; as we say in the South, for some reason we just tickled the hell out of each other. He was just so damn passionate and enthusiastic about so many things - Jim, for example, was the only person I have been able to passionately discuss the pleasures of eating late breakfasts outside with; in one of my last conversations with him, we were discussing the place in Istanbul (Jim was going this summer) I had recommended, a guesthouse with a fabulous outdoor breakfast of toast, jam, black coffee, olives, feta, and fresh diced tomato with oregano. It sounds silly in hindsight, but these sorts of details are how, I think, one captures Jim - it is well-known that his knowledge of linguistics was encyclopedic, but so were his passions.

One of the great tragedies of my life is that I was so immature that it was not until so late in my career that I became actual close friends with him. He GAVE me so much - and of such variety - I reckon that the only thing I was able to give him was a shared passion. He embodied what we supposedly - or at least according to my theory of the humanities - study the humanities for. He was always a great example, but to be his friend was to be directly touched with the full force of his self - as esoteric as that sounds, it was a real experience, an experience of joy. In the South we blow a lot of hot air about the concept of being a "gentleman," though one rarely encounters one. Jim was the real thing, a member of that rare species; he was truly a gentleman. He was an example of the humanities.I am sorry this reminiscence is so egocentric; it surely reflects a flaw in my own character. But this is how I knew Jim. I selfishly wanted his time before he died, and I selfishly miss him now.

R.C.

-----

* Jim's work always reminded me of Bertrand Russell on the four things he [BR] was quoted to be most fond of: "mathematics and the sea, and theology and heraldry, the two former because they are inhuman, the two latter because they are absurd." To me, the phenomenology of learning Jim's theory was such that I came to see what simply seemed to be banal parts of speech as strange exotic animals not familiar to our tired everyday perception, like the odd-shaped fuzzy fauna of a Salvador Dali landscape, or seeing an xray of a part of your body for the first time.

-----

Postscript. I am not sure, since I have been out of the country, what people have been talking about as far as a memorial for Jim goes. I would like to put the following on the table, given Jim's deep love for opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago in particular (though he was really crazy about the Chicago Opera Theatre too). At the Lyric, you can "buy a seat" in the opera building in memory of a loved one. As I recall, they put the person's name on a small plaque on or in front of the seat, though I may be confusing this with the Met. At any rate, I thought this would be a nice idea. I don't have any idea how much money would have to be raised; if people are interested, I will call the Lyric.

 


 

I met Professor once a few years ago at the LSA convention in San Francisco. I am deeply indebted to him for making linguistics come alive from the first time I heard Quang phuc dong in 1971(?) until this May when I will post for the last time on the bulletin board, 'notable linguistic dates in the month of May' (Lingua Pranca). He will be missed.

William D. Patterson English Literature Department Nihon University

 


 

Alex Francis called me last Monday with the shocking news of Jim's passing, and Nancy Dray e-mailed me independently the next day. I was just reading all the reminiscences of Jim on the department web site, and thought I'd add my own. I first met Jim almost exactly ten years ago. I was visiting campus during the first week of spring quarter 1989, to figure out whether I wanted to go to U of C for my Ph.D. I was quite familiar with Jim's work, having already gotten a B.A. and an M.A. in linguistics; in fact, I had bought and devoured his newly-published *Syntactic Phenomena of English* the previous fall. But I had never met the man, and didn't know whether I'd get to during my brief visit. I had been hanging out in the linguistics lounge (something I was to spend far too much time doing in coming years), and I had met a number of the students, including Eric Schiller and Elisa Steinberg, and expressed my interest in meeting Jim McCawley. It was after lunchtime when I saw through the glass of the lounge walls an astonishing-looking disheveled man come through the doors of the department, carrying a massive backpack, and disappear in the direction of the back offices. Eric Schiller turned to me and said, "You'd better wait until he has his first cup of coffee," and I knew that this was McCawley. A few minutes later, I went back to his office and introduced myself, and he immediately invited me to clear a space in the mound of papers in his office and have a seat. As I told him about the things I found interesting in linguistics, he kept saying, "Oh! I wrote a paper about that!" and bounding up to pull a paper out of his filing cabinet and thrust it into my hands. By the time I left his office, I was in a daze, clutching a half-dozen McCawley papers in my fist, and thinking little more than, "Wow!" I did end up coming to U of C that fall, and I soon realized the depth of both Jim's intellect and his compassion for others. I attended my first Hangul-nal party that fall, on the night of Game 3 of the Cubs' on a television in the dining room with the sound off, which is how I found out that he was a fellow baseball fan (among his multitudinous other interests). It was the first of many times I was in that apartment, with its walls of books, its wall of records, and the aroma of wonderful foods usually wafting everywhere. I only had a few classes with Jim in the three years I took classes there, but they were all memorable. Jim served on my major field committee, and always had perceptive things to say about whatever I was working on. Although I'm no longer a practicing linguist, I still come down to the U of C campus once a month or so, and I ran into Jim one one of my most recent visits. He was riding his bike on the quad, and as I passed him he said, "Hi, Dave!" We then went our separate ways, and little did I know that it would be the last time I would see him. Like so many others, I was touched in many ways by Jim McCawley, and my life was richer for having known him.

Dave Kathman

U of C Linguistics Ph.D., 1994

 


 

Dear Professor Mufwene,

I am writing to express my utmost sadness at the death of Jim McCawley. I earned the MA in Linguistics from U. of C. in 1990 and was deeply touched by Professor McCawley. There was every reason to be in awe of him, yet he was incredibly human. Although I pursued my doctorate degree in a field outside of linguistics, I often remembered Jim and his style of teaching. He was and will continue to be a great inspiration to me and to countless others. I did not hear of the services until after they had taken place, and I will be at a conference during the memorial service at CLS. Please pass on my condolences to his family and friends. Sincerely,

Cheryl Toman Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages Elmhurst College

 


 

Dear Professor Mufwene,

Thanks for your message to Linguistlist concerning the death of Jim McCawley. Subsequently, John Goldsmith wrote concerning plans to hold a remembrance at the forthcoming CLS meeting. I won't be there, but I thought I could contribute the following at long distance(I would have sent this to John, but I deleted his message before I decided to contribute. So you can pass this on to him, if he is the one making the arrangements.Jim McCawley wrote and otherwise expressed his opinion about everything from generative semantics to Russell's analysis of definiteness, from Chinese cuisine to the most elusive details of English syntax, from the intricacies of logic and its application to human language semantics to Jespersen's work on international auxiliary languages..The late entertainer, enterpreneur, and politician Sonny Bono once said that he didn't have qualifications for any of the things he did. Nevertheless he succeeded at all of them, at least for a while. Similarly, it can perhaps be said of Jim that his qualifications in some of the areas he had something to say about were not overwhelming, but that he nevertheless contributed to all of them from time to time.One of Chomsky's first students, but also one of the first to rebel against him (Somebody should check the accuracy of the following), Jim was to my knowledge the first (and only, so far) of Chomsky's male students to become president of the LSA.Jim once invited me to call him any time between 12 noon and 3AM! And there may be those besides myself who attended a conference on Phonological Theories at Indiana University in 1978 and remember his showing up, coffee cup in hand, at 10:00AM or so for a session which began at 9:00AM, even though he was one of the panelists! Interestingly, his contribution to that session was the only one that I still remember something about.So he wasn't a believer in that "early to bed, early to rise..." stuff. Rather he was a bon vivant and had his own unique lifestyle. A different lifestyle might have added years to his life, but I doubt that he would have been happy with the tradeoff.
Dan Maxwell

 


 

Esteemed Professor Mufwene,

This Sunday's "On Language" column by William Safire will contain the last "gripes" we received from Professor McCawley. Mr. Safire thought it would be a good tribute to a great man. Our condolences,

Kathleen E. Miller Research Assistant to William Safire The New York Times

 


 

A Giant (Walrus) in Linguistics

First Iâd like to offer a friendly amendment to Sali Mufweneâs characterization of Jim as a giant in linguistics. I agree wholeheartedly with Saliâs characterization. Jim was and is a giant in linguistics. Perhaps one or two other linguists since Bloomfield and Sapir in American linguistics are in Jimâs class as linguists, but none is in his league as a person.

As a way of capturing Jimâs unique contribution to linguists as well as linguistics, Iâd prefer to say that Jim was a giant walrus in linguistics. That captures the obvious physical facts as well as at least some of Jimâs sense of fun, approachability, kindness, and his utter lack of pretension.

I found out about Jimâs death by reading his obituary in The New York Times. Linda, my wife, gets up first and often leaves interesting articles out for me to read at the breakfast table. Thatâs what she did on April 14.

Iâll have to say Jim left in good company. There was Boxcar Willie on the top right side of the page and Brownie Mary on the bottom left. Linda started on the right with Boxcar Willie, and then noticed the picture to the left of Willieâs obituary out of the corner of her eye. "What a cute guy!" she thought. Jim would have appreciated that. I donât claim to understand my wifeâs taste in men; I just benefit from it.

Anyway, the next thing that occurred to her was that some rock star must have died. I know Jim would have grinned and thrown his head back in laughter at that.

Then she realized that the picture was Jim, and read the obituary. Since Iâd been up very late working, she just left it on the breakfast table for me and took the girls to school.

Linda met Jim in the summer of I believe it was 1976. I had come up to Chambana for the Summer LSA meeting and she flew up to OâHare to meet me for a brief Chicago visit before returning to Austin. At that time she was my girlfriend and a young graduate student in bibliography. I was no fine catch. I had just gone through a bitter divorce involving young children and had just been told not just "No", but "Hell no!" about tenure by my department. Not only was I not going to get tenure, I wasnât even going to be considered for it and I was asked to leave a year early. I hasten to add that this was an English department, not linguistics.

Linda had these and many other reasons to be dubious about this soon-to-be unemployed recently-divorced a little too old linguist. And we all know that linguists are generally considered to be a little strange by the rest of the world, and rightly (not to mention proudly) so.

Anyway, we somehow found ourselves at Jim and Norikoâs front door, having NP-cycled up the stairs. Jim invited us in and insisted on putting us up for the night despite the fact that he really didnât know me very well and had never even met Linda.

Jim was utterly charming, as only Jim could be. Linda is a sometime piano player, and she was struck by the way Jimâs piano and harpsichord were nestled together in the living room. Jim took her over to his harpsichord, which I now understand Jerry Sadock built from a kit and sold to him, using the money to buy a better kit to build for himself, and showed her around basic differences between the harpsichord and the piano. They noodled around on harpsichord and piano, sharing a bench (to the extent that one can share a bench with Jim) and playing a little four-handed.

They got into a discussion of Libertarianism, which Linda was sure he couldnât really be serious about. By the end of that conversation, Jim had firmly declared that the only purpose of the government was to defend the coasts from invasion, deliver the mail, and print money.

Of course we ended up at a Chinese restaurant with Jim writing out our order in Chinese and charming everyone. By the end of a wonderful, if blessedly not entirely understood meal, the entire staff of the restaurant surrounded our table, hanging on Jimâs every word in whatever language. Noriko said very quietly, "Jim is just showing off." And he most certainly was, and having a fine time of it, as were we all.

We went back to Jim and Norikoâs to spend the night, where we experienced Jimâs bathroom, which for those of you who have shared that experience (and those who have not) is enough said. By the time we left for Austin the next morning, Linda was utterly charmed, and my stock had gone up considerably.

After twenty years of marriage and two fine girls, Iâm just here to say, "Thank you Jim!"

Postscript: "Thank you Jim!"âs [sic, Haj!] a phrase I found myself repeating throughout the CLS meeting and in the days which followed. It bears repeating by linguists, especially those of the data-fetishist persuasion, everywhere.

Andy Rogers At the James D. McCawley Memorial at CLS, April 23, 1999

 


 

Dr. Mufwene,

(This is a bit late - not being in touch with the linguistic community or Hyde Park, I only learned of Jim's death last Thursday.) I was a student of Jim's in the early '70s and stayed in touch with him over the years. My wife and I attended many Bastille Day and Hangul-Nal parties, and often drove Jim to new restaurants he had read about in the Chicago area. Inspired by one of his phonology classes, I wrote a Master's thesis (while I was still in the Anthropology Dept.) on the melodies of speech, claiming that normal speech is intrinsically melodic and follows some basic musicological principles. Jim was the one person who not only understood what I was talking about but actually heard the melodies.

I had always intended to come back and do the dissertation thing someday. Aside from the speech melodies issue, my primary interest is natural language understanding systems - I've made my living since grad school as a software developer and designer.You may consider this a perverse testimonial, but I no longer feel any interest in returning to academia: Jim was the only person I ever considered working with.Oh well, maybe someday that will change....

Tom Rossen (MA '74)

 


 

Condolences to everyone--not least, myself. I have no non-maudlin way to generalize what Jim meant to me, but his delight in anyone's new idea had a lot to do with my trying to come up with at least one to share with him and so becoming a linguist. Of course, he generously spread any such idea of mine (as he did for everyone) around the world. Of all the things he did for so many, the following is typical but surely unique: The year I was writing my dissertation, 1968-69, the only qualified professors of syntax at the University of Illinois vanished to three corners of the linguistic world. But this young University of Chicago professor, who knew me only as one of a hundred plus Summer Linguistics Institute students, was willing to become an invited member of my U of I committee, read my dissertation in progress, defend my defense, and befriend me for ever after. And all of the time he acted as if I was doing something for him. In his happy view, it was happily so.

Bill Cantrall

 


 

I read about the dreadful, sorrowful news in the recent issue of "Language," and then on the department's website. Please convey my deepest condolences to Jim's family and the department. It is hard to imagine a world of linguistics without Jim, partly because his insights and innovations always seemed to point to a bright future filled with new challenges for us.

I'd known Jim for 25 years; he was my teacher, my dissertation advisor and my friend. In recent years, I'd caught glimpses of him usually at LSA meetings, but he always had something new to say, always some encouragement and genuine interest in what I was doing (and I know I'm not alone in those experiences). I will miss Jim the linguist. He is one of the few people I could present my rough ideas to, only to have him come up with a few suggestions--invariably the right suggestions--on how to improve what I was doing, to give greater clarity to the problems and their possible solutions.

Although Jim would never style himself a Dravidian linguist (that small corner of the linguistic globe I inhabit), he made invaluble contributions to the field through his training of linguists. He directed at least three dissertations on various aspects of Tamil morphology and syntax. And although his Tamil had a distinct Japanese accent, his ability to grasp fully what was at work in the language was astounding.

And, of course, I will miss Jim the person, the man who found delight in such diverse things as a music score or a Chinese menu. I can remember carefree Sundays as a grad student when a group of us packed into Ron Sears' Honda Civic and headed for Chinatown, and Jim seranaded us with the theme of a fugue he had written.

Jim's legacy through his writings and his students, through the influence he had on his colleagues--who were all his friends, is clearly immense. After reading the tributes on the website and thinking about the years I spent at UC, it is clear that his influence is broad, deep and enduring.I hope to make the memorial service in October.

My deepest sympathies,

Sandy Steever

 


 

I can't help but draw comparisons between Jim McCawley and John Lennon. Both cared deeply for the Orient, for music, and for life. Both were members of notable foursomes. And both were the first members of those foursomes to pass on.

Jim left us on Saturday, April 10, though I will always think that he left us on Monday, April 12. That was the day when I happened to hear the news, which also happened to be my birthday.

Jim possessed a breadth and depth of knowledge I have rarely seen in a single person. I would talk with him on everything from how scoping works, to the philosophy of mathematics, to the public relations of linguistics. But Jim was more than a fact sponge, he could argue like a ninja. I can remember one time when I questioned a point he made in his introductory syntax class, and he responded immediately with an answer so utterly deep and convincing that my counterresponse was to sit back and say "Wow."The size of Jim's brain was only matched by the size of his heart. From the moment I met him, Jim was always eager to share his energy, his enthusiasm, and his friendship. I can particularly remember the gratitude and honor I felt when Jim helped me join the Linguistic Society of America when I was just a first-year linguistics graduate student. Mind you, this happened in the year Jim was president of the LSA, and still he hounded long and hard, facing a registration deadline, for the necessary forms.

When I mentioned to friends and acquaintances that Jim was 61 when he died, I hear the same response from nearly everyone: "he was so young." Such a remark suggests unfulfilled potential, even though this is Jim McCawley we're talking about. Still, I agree that the remark is apt. Jim McCawley had so much more knowledge and kindness to share, that we are inclined to feel robbed or cheated that we only got 61 years. Let us instead feel grateful that Jim lived 61 years to share of a vast treasure of mind and spirit that but for his mortal frame might have lasted forever.

--Mitchell Szczepanczyk

 


 

Dear Professor Muwene, and all the respected faculty members of the department of linguistics at the University of Chicago,

The demise of the great professor of linguistics, Professor James McCawley is no doubt a great loss, not only to you, but also to all those interested and engaged in linguistics. He was one of those figures whom can hardly be replaced.

Generations to come, and future linguists will all be proud of his everlasting contributions to the knowledge of language, and as long as his valuable publications exist, he will live on through them. Now he lives in our souls and hearts, and our most sincere prayers accompany his pure soul.

The faculty members and the students of the department of linguistics at Allameh Tabataba'i University cordially sympathize with the knowlegable scholars of your department, and sincerely hope that the students and colleagues of that late professor continue the way he started, and keep his name and memory alive by their contributions to the field of language and linguistcs.

"So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, So long as lives this,and this gives life to thee."

We express our heartfelt regret once more,and wish the rest of the deparment a life full of achievement and prosperity.God bless you all.

Sincerely, Koorosh Safavi, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Linguistics, Allameh Tabataba'i University,Tehran, IRAN