LINGUIST List 24.4858

Mon Dec 02 2013

All: Obituary: Adolfo Constenla (1948-2013)

Editor for this issue: Sarah Fox <>

Date: 30-Nov-2013
From: Elena Benedicto <>
Subject: Obituary: Adolfo Constenla (1948-2013)
E-mail this message to a friend

The original text in Spanish (posted at was written by Guillermo González, and the English version was prepared by myself with input from Guillermo González, J. Diego Quesada and Eric Follett.

Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1981

“He set the path for future generations of linguists.”

On Friday Nov 8th, in an atmosphere of intimacy and mourning, at the rhythm of Bribri funerary songs, colleagues, students and friends gave their teacher and mentor Adolfo Constenla their last good-bye. He had passed away the night before.

His ashes will soon be dispersed throughout the indigenous territories of the peoples for whose languages he worked and fought all his life with such incomparable effort and perseverance.

Few deaths will have such an impact for researchers of the languages of Central America. ''Don Adolfo”, as he was usually known since his first works about Guatuso in the 1960s, garnered a national and international reputation that few in Costa Rica enjoy. But he also won the appreciation of anyone who happened to be, in one way or another, near him. Every young researcher in Costa Rica knows that. Whenever an insurmountable question arose, the answer was always the same: ''we need to ask Constenla.'' And he would answer, because no matter how trivial the question may be, he would always find an interesting angle and provide an answer full of erudition.

It will be very difficult to learn to walk without him. He was a generous soul that never stopped in his efforts to investigate and preserve the wealth of indigenous languages of the region. He would even subsidize the fieldwork sessions out of his own pocket, because he understood like nobody else that, beyond money, in our work there are much weightier ethical concerns.

ACALING (The Linguistic Association of Central America) manifests its profound sorrow for the loss of Adolfo Constenla, co-founder of our association and the most renowned expert in Central American linguistics. Before him, the languages of Central America were in a vacuum about which we knew little. It was him who revealed the linguistic identity of the region to the world, and created the knowledge base upon which we all work today. In recognizing this contribution of his work, ACALING invites all researchers in our region to follow his example of work and persistence in favor of our languages, so that we may expand in our knowledge of them.

This is by far the best way we can honor his memory.

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable

Page Updated: 02-Dec-2013