LINGUIST List 19.2338

Thu Jul 24 2008

All: Obituary: Catherine P. Browman (1945-2008)

Editor for this issue: Catherine Adams <>

        1.    Louis Goldstein, Obituary: Catherine P. Browman (1945-2008)

Message 1: Obituary: Catherine P. Browman (1945-2008)
Date: 23-Jul-2008
From: Louis Goldstein <>
Subject: Obituary: Catherine P. Browman (1945-2008)
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Catherine Phebe Browman, one of the pioneers in the field of LaboratoryPhonology, died Friday July 18. She struggled for 21 years with MS, anddied very peacefully at home, surrounded by her long-time partner, LouisGoldstein, and all the dedicated, loving caregivers who made it possible tolive out her life in the beauty and peace of her home.

Cathe is best known for her ground-breaking work with Goldstein onArticulatory Phonology. This work, developed at Haskins Laboratories in themid-1980s, attempted to integrate phonological representation with novelwork on dynamics and motor control inspired by Michael Turvey and CarolFowler and crystallized in the task-dynamics model of Elliot Saltzman. Inher work with Goldstein, abstract vocal tract gestures are hypothesized tobe the fundamental units of phonological knowledge, speech production, andspeech perception.

Cathe was born in Missoula, MT. Her father, Ludwig Browman, was a zoologiston the faculty of the University of Montana. Her mother, Audra ArnoldBrowman, was a PhD in biochemistry and became one of the leading historiansof the Missoula area. She grew up the youngest of three siblings, all ofwhom are surviving: Andrew Browman of Los Alamos, NM, Audra Adelberger ofSeattle, WA, and David Browman of St. Louis, MO.

After receiving a BA in mathematics from the University of Montana in 1967,Cathe went to work at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, as aprogrammer and then Associate Member of Technical Staff in the AcousticsResearch Department. In this capacity, she began to work with Cecil Cokerand Noriko Umeda and was a major contributor to that group’s novelarticulatory text-to-speech system, which first appeared in the literaturearound 1972.

Inspired by this work in speech, she decided to go to graduate school atUCLA and study with Peter Ladefoged, beginning in 1972. There she was partof the very fertile phonetics lab group with people such as Ron Carlson,Sandra Disner, Vicki Fromkin, Jack Gandour, Louis Goldstein, SteveGreenberg, Richard Harshman, Leon Jacobson, Jean-Marie Hombert, HectorJavkin, Mona Lindau, Ian Maddieson, George Papcun, Lloyd Rice, Diana vanLancker, and Eric Zee.

Following her PhD in linguistics in 1978, she went back to Bell Labs, whereshe was a post-doc with Osamu Fujimura and developed Lingua, a newdemi-syllable based text-to-speech system. After two years teaching in theLinguistics Department at NYU, she arrived at Haskins in 1984, where shewas to produce her major work, developing the Articulatory Phonology theoryand its associated computational simulation with Goldstein, Saltzman,Philip Rubin, and others.

Cathe had several passions outside of linguistics. The two strongest werehiking, particularly in Montana and in the Southwest, and dance. In thelate 1980’s, she taught and led the Dances of Universal Peace in New Jerseyand then Connecticut. These Sufi dances crystallized her commitment togroup interaction and (non-denominational) community spirituality. It isone of the several tragedies of her life that these two main passions werenot available to her when she became non-ambulatory, starting about 1995.

Cathe was a person of enormous determination and spirit. When she wasdiagnosed with MS in 1987, she refused to tell anyone except for closefriends and family, as she did not want it to interfere with the pursuit ofher work and her passions. Knowledge did not begin to become public untilthe Laboratory Phonology meeting in Oxford in 1993. Her speech, whichironically was one of the earliest motor systems affected by the disease,disintegrated during her commentary at that meeting, much to the shock anddismay of her friends and colleagues. This was the last talk she was topresent. She did nevertheless continue working, with increasing difficulty,from home. Determined as ever, she worked out clever strategies for slidingfrom bed to her computer, so she could, with failing eyesight, work ongrant proposals. In a final act of determination, she attended the weddingof the daughter of a childhood friend in November of 2006. Though she hadnot been out of bed for any reason in at least two years, she made the 8hour (each way) trip in a wheelchair in the back of a van, stayed twonights in a hotel, and attended the wedding and the entire reception.

Although Cathe did not have PhD students of her own, because she did nothold an academic position while at Haskins, there are many Haskins studentswho worked closely with her and were influenced by her. These include:Suzanne Boyce, Rena Krakow, Andre Cooper, Mark Tiede, Caroline Smith, SimonLevy, Joaquin Romero, Betty Kollia, Lisa Zsiga, Qi Wang, and Doug Honorof. She was also a major influence on post-docs Diamandis Gafos and Dani Byrd.During her last, brief hospital stay in late June 2008, she was visited bya group of five current Haskins students and recent PhDs who had never hadthe opportunity of working with her. Since Cathe’s caregivers were absentfrom the room at that moment, the other patient in the room asked: "So doyou all work for her, too?" One of the group, not missing a beat, answered,"No. We are all her students."

There will be no memorial service. Instead, Diamandis Gafos and LouisGoldstein have over the last month begun to plan an Articulatory Phonologyconference in her honor and memory to be held on the Greek island of Chios,in summer of 2010.

There is a web site for those who want to contribute words and/or picturesabout Cathe and her life and work( Those wishing to make a gestureof remembrance can make a contribution to the Cathe Browman Memorial at theCT Chapter of the National MS Society( to the Cathe Browman Fund for Exploration at Haskins Laboratories(

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable