LINGUIST List 3.453

Tue 02 Jun 1992

All: Zellig Harris

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  1. Vicki Fromkin, Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris
  2. "Michael Kac", Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris

Message 1: Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris

Date: Sat, 30 May 92 15:49 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris

Many thanks to Bruce Nevin for the tribute to Zellig Harris, one of
the giants on whose shoulders all linguists of any stature stand.

Vicki Fromkin
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Message 2: Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris

Date: Sun, 31 May 92 22:37:28 -0Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.445 A Tribute to Zellig Harris

I read with great interest Bruce Nevin's eloquent tribute to Zellig Harris
and applaud him not only for his unique insights into Harris's character
but also for a number of ways in which he is able to set a confused and
sometimes misleading record straight.

I was myself a student of Harris's for a brief time (1965-67) and insofar
as I can judge Bruce's comments against the background of my own experience
I would have to say that he presents an absolutely fair and accurate picture
of of an extremely unconventional and in someways troubling man. I sometimes
found it difficult and frustrating to deal with him, but I derived inspiration
from him too.

At the risk of appearing defensive, I'd like to suggest that Bruce's summary
of my review of Harris's collective writings is unfairly summed up in the
question 'Why bother?' But the review is accessible, and anyone interested
can come to an independent decision.

I will tell one story that I think illustrates very well what kind of a man
Harris was. In the summer of 1969 I decided, for a variety of reasons (some
having nothing to do with anything academic), to leave the graduate program
in linguistics at Penn and finish my Ph.D. elsewhere. I did regularly attend
Harris's course that following fall, knowing that this would likely be my
last chance to have any sort of personal contact with him. But I did not
have a paper ready by the end of that semester and an outstanding item of
business during the few months that intervened between my departure from
Penn and my arrival at UCLA in March of 1970 was to produce one. This I
did, and shortly after getting to Los Angeles I finished it and sent it
off. No more than a day or two later -- soon enough so that it was clear
that it had crossed my paper in the mail -- I received my last transcript
from Penn indicating that I had received an A for the course. It struck me
as a very Harrisian thing to do and I would have a bad conscience about it
but for one thing: I did write the paper!

Michael Kac
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