* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
LINGUIST List logo Eastern Michigan University Wayne State University *
* People & Organizations * Jobs * Calls & Conferences * Publications * Language Resources * Text & Computer Tools * Teaching & Learning * Mailing Lists * Search *
* *


LINGUIST List 23.3406

Tue Aug 14 2012

All: Obituary: Prof. Yehuda N. Falk

Editor for this issue: Kristen Dunkinson <kristenlinguistlist.org>

Date: 13-Aug-2012
From: Nora Boneh <bonehnmscc.huji.ac.il>
Subject: Obituary: Prof. Yehuda N. Falk
E-mail this message to a friend

Prof. Yehuda N. Falk passed away in Jerusalem, Israel, on July 4th
2012 at the age of 53. He is survived by his wife Brandel, and five
children: Eli, Yoni, Mati, Gabi and Pnina.

Yehuda Falk was an eminent scholar in the LFG community. He taught
linguistics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1984 until his
death, first in the English department and then in the linguistics
department. We, his colleagues from these departments, devastated at
his untimely passing away, have been honored and privileged to have
him as our colleague. He was a man with a rare sense of humor, which
had the power to light up the dreariest of meetings and engage his
students, many of whom testify that he caused them to become
enamored with linguistics. We will always remember him as a true
Mensch and a wonderful teacher.  He was a man of great devotion to
linguistics and the study of languages that he loved so; to his students,
by whom he is sorely missed; to his hobbies; and above all, to his
family. He will continue to be an inspiration to us all.

For more information on Prof. Falk's life and work please visit his
website: http://pluto.mscc.huji.ac.il/~msyfalk/
Here are words in his memory written by Joan Bresnan, slightly
corrected from the LFG Bulletin of July 2012


Remembering Yehuda Falk --Joan Bresnan

I first met Yehuda Falk when he entered graduate school in linguistics
at MIT in the early 1980's.  He had studied with Ray Jackendoff as an
undergraduate at Brandeis University.  While still a young graduate
student, he made several brilliant contributions to syntactic theory
(Falk 1983a,b, and 1984).  His proposed theory factoring apart linear
order and dominance relations in constituent structure (1983a) was a
major advance, adopted in various syntactic frameworks including
GPSG, LFG, and GB.  He also contributed a major study of the English
auxiliary system, which was published in the journal Language (1984).
In this study he argued persuasively for a mixed analysis of English
auxiliaries as complement-taking verbs and analytical exponents of
tense, and he also proposed the first functional category at the clause
level, again anticipating developments in syntactic theory by a number
of years.  I left MIT for Stanford before Yehuda Falk embarked on his
dissertation.  It was a delight to renew our acquaintance in 1998 at the
LFG conference in Brisbane, Australia, where he gave a paper.  Since
then he became a frequent contributor to LFG, giving conference
presentations in 2000 (Berkeley), 2001 (Hong Kong), 2002 (Athens),
2003 (Saratoga Springs), 2004 (Christchurch), 2005 (Bergen), 2006
(Konstanz), 2007 (Stanford), 2009 (Cambridge), 2010 (Ottawa), and
2011 (Hong Kong). where I last spoke with him.  He was the moderator
of the LFG list since 1999. In 1999--2000 I sponsored his sabbatical
visit to Stanford University, where he came with his wife Brandel and
four tall sons.  His daughter Pnina was not yet born.

At one time Yehuda remarked that he was the only linguist in Israel
working on LFG.  But he was not an isolate so much as a bridge
between different linguistic schools. In the entire LFG community and
the ILFGA, Yehuda Falk was one of the few who did comparative
syntactic theorizing engaging the Chomskyan paradigm, thereby
playing a very important role in theoretical cross-fertilization and
communication, one which was invaluable for students particularly, as
well as for researchers with broader perspectives in syntax.  Some of
his works which evidence this quality include ``Resumptive Pronouns in
LFG'' (Falk 2002), ``Pivots and the Theory of Grammatical Functions''
(Falk 2000), and especially his textbook (Falk 2001).  This book
contains a number of original analyses and theoretical developments
not published elsewhere and develops a coherent core of English
syntax, including an extensive and persuasive discussion of infinitival
constructions and relative clauses in LFG.

Yehuda Falk's research addressed central and classic problems in
syntax---the limits of clause structure, the typology of agreement and
case marking, extractions and related dependencies, and the nature of
categories (the latter especially in Falk 2004, 2007)---within the LFG
formal architecture making use of unification, structure-sharing, and
parallel correspondence.  His technical mastery of this architecture
was superb, and his ability to express intuitive generalizations in an
appropriate formal architecture, of the highest quality.  There are
many linguists who do not really understand the formalisms they use;
they practice a kind of magical thinking about formalism, as Ron
Kaplan once put it.  Yehuda Falk understood.

At the LFG conference in Saratoga Springs in 2003 I heard Yehuda
present ``The English Auxliary System Revisited''.  I thought it was a
masterful synthesis of new evidence and theory, arguing for a mixed
system and comparing his approach with rival contemporary proposals
(including HPSG).  I was also impressed by his manner of presentation;
the paper was given with great clarity and charm, delightfully easy to
follow even in the intricacies of argument.  I recalled his interest
in acting in musicals.

Who would guess that Yehuda was not only a great lover of Broadway
musicals, but also a performer in them (in Hebrew)?  Yehuda's
star-sprinkled webpage displays his passion for Broadway and also
reveals (less surprisingly) that he was a Trekkie. On those pages you will
see his bibliography which I have referred to above, very
selectively. And there too are a few biographical paragraphs about
his parents and his motivations for migrating from New York, where he
was born, to Israel.

Most of the LFG community met Yehuda when he was a man with a full
beard and a strict religious practice.  To me, Yehuda was always this
boy from Brandeis, one of my first students, very clever, very
curious. His sweetness and kindness were lifelong.


Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable

Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue



Page Updated: 14-Aug-2012

Supported in part by the National Science Foundation       About LINGUIST    |   Contact Us       ILIT Logo
While the LINGUIST List makes every effort to ensure the linguistic relevance of sites listed on its pages, it cannot vouch for their contents.