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LINGUIST List 17.1390

Fri May 05 2006

All: Obituary: David D. Thomas (1930-2006)

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        1.    Brian Migliazza, Obituary: David D. Thomas (1930-2006)


Message 1: Obituary: David D. Thomas (1930-2006)
Date: 02-May-2006
From: Brian Migliazza <brian_migliazzasil.org>
Subject: Obituary: David D. Thomas (1930-2006)


David D. Thomas (1930-2006)- Southeast Asia Linguist
OBITUARY: www.sil.org/linguistics/personnel/ThomasObit.html
REMEMBRANCES: www.sil.org/linguistics/personnel/ThomasRemembrances.html

SIL International mourns the loss of one of its eminent linguists, David
Thomas, who passed away on April 14, 2006 at the age of 76 in North
Carolina. David will be remembered for his outstanding contributions to
linguistics and Mon-Khmer languages, for his energetic teaching, for his
field work in mainland Southeast Asia, and for his service as mentor to a
great number of students and to his junior colleagues.

David Thomas, was a leading pioneer in Mon-Khmer (AustroAsiatic)
linguistics. It may be difficult to appreciate now in the 21st century just
how little was known about this Southeast Asian family of languages when he
arrived in Vietnam in the 1950's to begin research. Respected scholars
were still, following Pater Wilhelm Schmidt, classifying Chamic languages
as Mon-Khmer? an issue laid to rest by Richard Pittman in 1959. The
sub-groupings of Mon-Khmer languages were vague and had little empirical
basis. Thomas, acknowledging the great French scholarly tradition in
Indochina and celebrating especially the ground-breaking work of
Haudricourt, set about with his colleagues both to study in detail and to
classify the many Montagnard groups in the region. He, along with Prof.
Nguyen Dinh Hoa, formed the Linguistic Circle of Saigon, which in turn
launched the journal Mon-Khmer Studies in 1964.

Thomas was a student of the classic comparative linguistic method, having
studied with some of the best in the field at the University of
Pennsylvania. Historically, he sought to understand the possible Chamic
migration effects that appeared to have 'split' South Bahnaric groups from
North Bahnaric ones. He was keenly interested in explanations for the
variegated manifestations of Mon-Khmer phonological register systems. He
accurately judged that while reconstructing proto consonants in Mon-Khmer
would turn out to be relatively straightforward, the convoluted evolution
of register-related vocalic systems in the daughter languages would pose a
huge challenge.


Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discipline of Linguistics
General Linguistics
Genetic Classification
Historical Linguistics
Language Description
Phonology
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