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LINGUIST List 18.1460

Mon May 14 2007

All: Obituary: Tony Traill

Editor for this issue: Ann Sawyer <sawyerlinguistlist.org>


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        1.    Tucker Childs, Obituary: Tony Traill


Message 1: Obituary: Tony Traill
Date: 11-May-2007
From: Tucker Childs <tucker.childsgmail.com>
Subject: Obituary: Tony Traill


Sadly I report the death of Anthony Traill, noted phonetician and general 
expert on Khoisan and other languages of southern Africa. Tony’s most
important scholarly contributions were in phonetics, especially his
extensive work on clicks, e.g., Traill 1994a, but he also published on
other phonetic phenomena such as depressor consonants, tone, voice quality,
etc., e.g., Traill 1985. Tony also published extensively on the genetic
relationships in Khoisan (or the lack thereof), e.g., Traill 1986, and
documented the disappearance of the phylum’s constituency, e.g., Traill
1996, as well as the languages themselves, e.g., Traill 1994b. One of his
non-specialist productions was “Extinct South African Khoisan Languages”, a
CD documenting the death of Khoisan languages with digitized versions of
the earliest recordings (Traill 1997). Because of the boycott of South
Africa during the apartheid regime, not all of Tony’s publications were
known as well as they should have been. Nonetheless, among experts in his
various fields his work was recognized as always being of the highest
quality: fastidious, detailed, and often understated; eventual recognition
was shown by his Honorary Membership in the Linguistic Society of America
in 1998.

Tony’s Ph.D. and B.A. were awarded by the University of the Witwatersrand
(“Wits”), but he was also able to study at the University of Edinburgh
where he earned a master’s degree. Virtually all of his academic career was
spent at Wits, although he did spend a sabbatical year abroad in Germany,
and traveled extensively to universities around the world once the ban on
South Africa was lifted. Tony was instrumental in developing the Center for
African Studies at Wits, and although his professorship and chair were in
the Linguistics Department, he remained deeply involved in the Department
of African Languages.

As a mentor Tony had few peers. He was especially helpful to those who had
been disadvantaged by the apartheid system but also to younger students and
scholars from abroad. Scholars from around the world corresponded with him
and some visited, even when the country was closed. Once the boycott was
lifted, many more came to participate in and learn more about his research
program, as well as partake of his warm collegiality.

Tony spoke both !Xóõ and Zulu fluently (as well as Afrikaans) and had warm
working and personal relationships with the speakers of these languages, to
the extent such were possible in South Africa. For visiting linguists, of
whom there were many, there was no greater pleasure than to accompany Tony
on a research trip to the Kalahari and watch him at work (and play) with
his main working group of !Xóõ speakers. Tony had a deep and knowledgeable
passion for the South African countryside. He loved the outdoors and took
great pleasure in showing visitors and friends the Khoisan cave drawings
high up in the Drakensburg. For those who knew him professionally,
personally, or both, there is a deep sense of loss and to some extent
regret that he was not more widely known and appreciated.


Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable



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