LINGUIST List 25.1754
Apr 16 2014
All: Obituary: Barbara F
Editor for this issue:
Sarah Fox <sarahlinguistlist.org>
From: Brian Migliazza
Subject: Obituary: Barbara F
E-mail this message to a
Barbara Joyce Fornasero Grimes
Long-time Ethnologue Editor
Born: 19 August 1930; San Diego, California
Died: 1 March 2014; Tahlequah, Oklahoma (on her
62nd wedding anniversary), of a stroke.
by Chuck & Joe Grimes: 5 March 2014,
Her father's people (Italian) are said to have
“discovered” America. Her mother's people
(Cherokee) were already there to meet the boat.
Barbara herself was a registered citizen of the
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (#013555). Her
heritage became of growing importance over the
years as she researched her own background.
Her father, John B. Fornasero (a native speaker
of Piemontese) was well known in aviation
circles, among other things as Chief of Flight
Test for Boeing during “the golden years” of
aviation. The oldest daughter Barbara went on
to become a Greek major at Wheaton College in
Illinois, and later went to Mexico to live in a
remote village. Her sister Janet Burton became
a writer and teacher.
At Wheaton, Barbara met Joe Grimes, the son of
well known Christian songwriter Homer W.
Grimes, who had been a popular speaker at her
church camps. Joe and Barbara attended SIL
summer schools at the University of Oklahoma in
1950 and 1951. Joe preceded her to Mexico. When
she joined him there after graduating from
Wheaton they were married in Mexico City on 28
Feb 1952 (civil ceremony) and 1 March 1952
(church ceremony—the one they celebrated every
Barbara was a member of SIL International from
1951 until her death.
Joe and Barbara lived and worked among the
Huichol Indians in the remote mountains of west
central Mexico until they were chased out by
bandits in 1963. Barbara had publications in
anthropology and literacy, as well as
translating Old Testament portions. During the
rainy seasons Joe & Barbara went north to
teach at several SIL summer schools, mostly at
the University of Oklahoma (see list below).
The Huichol New Testament, Cacaüyari Niuquieya,
was published in 1967. It has since undergone
four reprintings due to continuing demand and
regular use. In her later years Barbara also
had a supporting role in the ongoing
translation of the Huichol Old Testament
initiated at the request of Huichol
In 1987 Joe & Barbara became involved in
the Hawai'i Pidgin project after Joe had been a
visiting professor at the University of
Hawai'i. The New Testament, Da Jesus Book, was
published in 2000, and has since sold over
85,000 copies and been on the State of Hawai'i
bestseller lists 17 times. In gearing up for
continuing with the Old Testament, Barbara
began studying Hebrew on her 74th birthday (at
the same time she was diagnosed with breast
cancer, which was later treated successfully
with surgery and chemotherapy).
In 1953, Richard Pittman asked Barbara to
assist him in compiling a list cataloging what
languages were known to exist where, how they
were related, how many people spoke them, which
ones already had translation begun, and which
ones still needed work to be started. In 1967
Barbara was made Assistant Editor of the
Ethnologue: languages of the world. She was
named Editor in 1971 and remained in that role
until 2000. Under her stewardship the
Ethnologue came out regularly in a new edition
every four years and grew to become the world's
premier inventory of the world's languages for
linguists, anthropologists, students,
researchers and missiologists. When the website
was developed (www.ethnologue.com)
it quickly won awards as the “go-to” website
for anyone doing language related research from
anywhere in the world.
While the Ethnologue was SIL's #1 academic
best-seller, it also became a kind of
battleground within the organization for
clarifying ideas about “what is a language?”
versus “what is a dialect?”, “what constitutes
a translation need?”, what categories of
information should or should not be included,
making sense of widely varying approaches to
language classification in different parts of
the world, and many related issues. In trying
to bring sense and reason to topics that many
people felt passionately about, Barbara
finetuned both her thinking and issues in
sociolinguistics and dialectology by writing
discussion papers, strategy papers, conference
papers and professional publications.
The SIL board also tasked Barbara with finding
languages that were “falling through the
cracks” in their traditional organizational
structures. In that mode, Barbara helped
initiate research on migrant languages such as
Plautdietsch and Pennsylvania Dutch. She also
brought attention to the need for translations
for the deaf (communicating through dozens of
different sign languages around the world).
Expanding from her work trying to understand
how Hawai'i Pidgin relates to Standard English
both structurally and socially, she also did a
lot of research on understanding pidgins and
creoles around the world. Work completed or in
process in a number of creole languages around
the world, is partly due to the clarity and
understanding that Barbara brought into the
As a result of her work on the Ethnologue and
related publications, in 1993 Wheaton College
awarded her an honorary doctorate.
While Joe was alternating years as a professor
of linguistics at Cornell University, and
running discourse workshops for SIL in Brazil,
New Guinea, Philippines, Nepal, Nigeria, Ghana,
and other places, Barbara kept busy
systematically refining the information in the
Ethnologue for those and other countries around
the world—much of it before the age of email.
She also co-lectured at workshops on
sociolinguistic surveys in Colombia 1982,
Philippines 1984, Indonesia 1985, Malaysia
1985, and Kenya 1987.
Her three children were born and raised in
Mexico, and Barbara home schooled each of them
at various stages of their education. Joe &
Barbara's quiet passion for marginalized
minorities and the languages they speak is
reflected in their children. Marilyn Grimes
Thrasher worked to recruit and train Korean
linguists in South Korea in the 1980s. Marilyn
died in 2000 from breast cancer. Charles
(Chuck) Grimes (PhD, linguistics; Australian
National University) and his wife Barbara Dix
Grimes (the “other Barbara Grimes”; PhD
anthropology, ANU) continue to work with
language communities in eastern Indonesia, East
Timor, and northern Australia. Keith Grimes
follows Joe's interests in computing, working
in the IT industry in Australia. Joe and
Barbara also have 7 grandchildren and 10
great-grandchildren living in three
People describe Barbara with words like:
meticulous, tenacious, faithful, loyal, humble,
and big picture visionary.
She was also a beautiful woman. When Barbara
turned 60, a student who knew her at Wheaton
and later also became a Wycliffe colleague
commented, “She has hardly aged at all. She
still looks as beautiful as she did at
Following her death from a stroke, several
emails to Joe and Chuck painted the picture of
Barbara entering heaven with crowds of
forgotten, marginalized and disadvantaged
minorities lining the streets to cheer her
Field investigator, Huichol language project,
Mexico 1952-1967, 1979-1980, 2007-2014
Field investigator, Hawaii Pidgin language
Instructor in Linguistics, Summer Institute of
University of Oklahoma 1954-1955, 1957-1972,
1980, 1982, 1984-1987
University of North Dakota 1956, 1974, 1976
University of Texas, Arlington 1988-1992
Editor, Ethnologue: Languages of the World
Assistant Editor 1967-71
Editorial Assistant 1953, 1965
Litt. D., Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois,
B. A., Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois
(Greek, Clarence B. Hale), 1952
West Seattle High School, Seattle, Washington,
SIL, University of Oklahoma, summers 1950,
Linguistic Institute of the Linguistic Society
of America, University of Indiana, summer
Member, Scholastic Honor Society, Wheaton
College, Wheaton, Illinois
Courses Taught and Workshops Conducted:
Introductory Phonetics, SIL 1954-1957, 1959,
Introductory Phonology, SIL 1958, 1960-1964,
Introductory Grammar, SIL 1965-1970, 1974
Introductory Spanish, SIL 1971
Sociolinguistic Surveys, SIL 1984-1992
Cultural Anthropology, International College,
Honolulu, HI 1994
Lectured on Sociolinguistic Surveys for
Latin America Area Consultants' Seminar,
Guatemala City, Guatemala, September 1983
Horsley's Green, England (at least twice)
Asia Area Sociolinguistics Seminar, Manila,
Philippines, March 1984
Workshops Colombia 1982, Philippines 1984,
Indonesia 1985, Malaysia 1985, Kenya 1987
‘Notes on Huichol kinship terminology’, with
Joseph E. Grimes. El Mexico Antiguo 9:561-576,
‘Semantic distinctions in Huichol (Uto-Aztecan)
kinship’, second author with Joseph E. Grimes.
American Anthropologist 64:104-114, 1962.
Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Dallas: SIL
International. Editor 1974, 1978, 1984, 1988,
1992, 1996, 2000; assistant editor 1969,
editorial assistant 1953, 1965.
Ethnologue Language Name Index. Dallas: SIL
International. Editor 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996,
Bible translation needs bulletin. Dallas:
Wycliffe Bible Translators. Editor 1988, 1992,
Joseph E. Grimes and Barbara F. Grimes. 1993,
1996, 2000. Ethnologue Language Family Index.
Dallas: SIL International.
‘Comprehension and language attitudes:
conditions and roles in Bible translation
need’. Notes on Linguistics, Special
Publication No. 2:26-40, July 1982.
‘Language attitudes: Identity, distinctiveness,
survival in the Vaupes.’ Notes on Linguistics
‘Second language proficiency report.’ Notes on
Linguistics 31.26-30, 1984.
‘Comprehension and language attitudes in
relation to language choice for literature and
education in pre-literate societies.’ Journal
of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
‘Language attitudes: Identity, distinctiveness,
survival in the Vaupes.’ Journal of
Multilingual and Multicultural Development
‘Evaluating bilingual proficiency in language
groups for cross cultural communication.’ Notes
on Linguistics 33.5-27, 1986.
‘Regional and other nonstandard dialects of
major languages.’ Notes on Linguistics
‘Language skills required of a disciple.’ Notes
on Scripture in Use 9.19-23, 1986.
‘Language choice in First Century
Christianity.’ Notes on Scripture in Use
‘Good surveys: Diagnosing vernacular literature
need.’ Notes on Linguistics 38.26-30, 1987.
‘How bilingual is bilingual?’ Notes on
Linguistics 40.3-23, 1987.
Review of Gyula Decsy, Statistical report on
the languages of the world as of 1985. Word
‘Why test intelligibility?’ Notes on
Linguistics 42.39-64, 1988.
‘On bilingual proficiency thresholds.’ Notes on
Scripture in Use 16.1-10, 1988.
‘Checking data for reliability.’ ms. submitted
to Lausanne Conference on Evangelism
‘Special considerations for creole surveys.’
Notes on Linguistics 47:41-63, 1989.
‘Validity and reliability in language survey
testing.’ Presented at the International
Language Assessment Conference 1, Summer
Institute of Linguistics, Horsleys Green,
England, May 1989. Revision in Notes on
Linguistics 65:4-21 1994.
‘“Reached” without the Scriptures?’
International Journal of Frontier Missions
‘Notes on oral proficiency testing (SLOPE).’
1992. Windows on Bilingualism, Eugene H. Casad,
ed. A Publication of the Summer Institute of
Linguistics and the University of Texas at
Arlington, No. 110. Dallas: Summer Institute of
Linguistics, pp. 53-60.
‘From every language.’ Perspectives on the
World Christian Movement: A Reader. Revised
1992. Pasadena: William Carey Library. pp.
‘From every language’ (revised). Perspectives
on the World Christian Movement: A Reader.
Third edition, 1999. Pasadena: William Carey
Library. pp. 559-561.
Oxford International Encyclopedia of
Linguistics. Topic editor for minority
languages with Joseph E. Grimes. 1992. New
York: Oxford University Press.
Review of Oliver Sacks, 1988. Seeing voices: A
journey into the world of the deaf. Berkeley:
University of California Press. Notes on
Linguistics 67:51-55 1993.
Review of William Stokoe and Rolf Kuschel,
1979. A field guide for sign language research.
Silver Spring, Md.: Linstok Press, Inc. Notes
on Linguistics 64:57-58 1993.
‘Evaluating the Hawaii Creole English
Situation.’ Presented at the International
Language Assessment Conference 2, Summer
Institute of Linguistics, Horsleys Green,
England, June 2-9, 1993. Notes on Literature in
Use and Language Programs 39:39-60 1994.
Grimes, Barbara F., Joseph E. Grimes, Malcolm
D. Ross, Charles E. Grimes, Darrell T. Tryon.
1995. Listing of Austronesian languages. In
Darrell Tryon, ed. Comparative Austronesian
Dictionary: an introduction to Austronesian
studies. 4 Parts. Trends in Linguistics,
Documentation 10. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Part 1, Fascicle 1:121–279.
The English Bible and Hawaii Creole English.
Submitted to The Bible Translator.
The Ethnologue, language surveys, and
sociolinguistics. In Memories and reflections,
Christina Bratt Paulston and G. Richard Tucker.
1997. Dallas: SIL, pp. 285-294.
Kinds of data needed for the Ethnologue:
Languages of the World. 1998. Notes on
Global Language Viability. 2000. In Osamu
Sakiyama, Ed., Lectures on Endangered
Languages: 2, From Kyoto Conference 2000,
Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim
Publication Series C002, pp. 45-61.
'Ïquisica 'esarica (recipes in Huichol and
Nepititerïva (primers 1-3 in Huichol), with
Joseph E. Grimes, 1952.
Scripture calendar, in Huichol 1953.
'Aixüa tepüteu'erie (health book in Huichol),
with Joseph E. Grimes, 1961.
Synopsis of Job, in Huichol, 1962.
Synopsis of the Pentateuch, in Huichol,
'Üxasi Quesusi hetüa mieme (Huichol Old
Testament summary) 1965.
Scripture selections on the family, in Huichol
Reading Primer in Huichol 1979.
Four Things God Wants You to Know, in Huichol
Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable
page|Top of issue
Page Updated: 16-Apr-2014
While the LINGUIST List
makes every effort to ensure the linguistic relevance
of sites listed on its pages, it cannot vouch for their