LINGUIST List 20.719

Fri Mar 06 2009

All: Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda

Editor for this issue: Catherine Adams <>

        1.    Grant Goodall, Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda

Message 1: Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda
Date: 05-Mar-2009
From: Grant Goodall <>
Subject: Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda
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Sige-Yuki Kuroda, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor of Linguisticsat UCSD, died in La Jolla, California, on February 25, 2009, after a longillness. Known almost universally as Yuki, Kuroda was the father of modernJapanese linguistics. His 1965 MIT dissertation, Generative Studies in theJapanese Language, written under the direction of Noam Chomsky, providedthe seeds of theoretical studies of Japanese that continue to have animpact today. His work showed that not only could Japanese be fruitfullyanalyzed using the theory of generative grammar, but that it could play animportant role in extending and expanding that theory.

Kuroda’s work on Japanese was motivated not by a parochial impulse to studyhis native language, but rather by a desire to use Japanese to illuminatethe universality of human language. His work thus had an impact far beyondthe realm of Japanese linguistics. As the Belgian linguist Nicolas Ruwetput it in his introduction to the French translation of Kuroda’s book The(W)hole of the Doughnut, “in studying Japanese, Kuroda is really focusingon all of us.”

Kuroda’s linguistic work covered an exceptionally wide range, fromphonology, syntax, and semantics, through pragmatics, stylistics, andpoetics, to philosophy of language and mathematical linguistics. Justbefore his death, he was working simultaneously on Russian phonology andprosodic issues in the translation of Shakespeare’s sonnets into Japanese,and was revisiting some of his earliest work on mathematics.

Kuroda was born in 1934 into a prominent academic family. His grandfather,Teiji Takagi, had studied with the German mathematician David Hilbert, wasa professor at Tokyo University and a member of the Japanese Academy. Hisfather, Sigekatu Kuroda, was also a mathematician, as are two of hisbrothers.

Sige-Yuki Kuroda received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and linguisticsfrom the University of Tokyo, and a master’s degree in mathematics fromNagoya University. He then entered the linguistics department at MIT in1962 and was a member of the first graduating class, receiving hislinguistics Ph.D. in 1965. He was one of the first members of thelinguistics faculty at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD),teaching from 1966 until his retirement in 1994. He then accepted aposition as Professor of Linguistics at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japanin 1995 and retired from there in 1998. In addition, he held visitingpositions at universities in Japan, France, Spain, and the Netherlands; hewas a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciencesin Palo Alto and the International Institute of Advanced Studies in Kyoto.He was also honored as a Guggenheim Fellow and as a Fellow of the AmericanAcademy of Arts and Sciences.

Kuroda is survived by his wife, Susan Fischer, and by three brothers andother family members in Japan. He also leaves hundreds of friends,colleagues, and former students who admired him for his deep intellect andloved him for his gentle kindness. Those wishing to honor his memory maymake a contribution to the Japanese American National Museum in LosAngeles, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, or to any progressive causeof the donor’s choice.

A page paying tribute to Yuki Kuroda has been set up at

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable