LINGUIST List 32.2551

Wed Aug 04 2021

All: Obituary: Michael Jay Aceto (1962-2021)

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 03-Aug-2021
From: Ludmila Cope <>
Subject: Obituary: Michael Jay Aceto (1962-2021)
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Michael Jay Aceto (1962-2021)

Sadly, we have lost a key figure in Creolistics and Caribbean linguistics: Michael Jay Aceto, Professor of English and Linguistics at East Carolina University. Michael’s contributions to Creolists and Caribbean linguistics are known to those who have ever even just cursorily glanced at the literature. His co-edited volume on Eastern Caribbean Englishes (1983) provided the first collection of essays on the sociolinguistic diversity of the region and the impetus for several new projects taken on by scholars and students alike.

Michael’s graduate work in linguistics was undertaken at The University of Texas at Austin under the direct supervision of Professor Ian Hancock. Professor Hancock challenged Michael intellectually, and set a model for fieldwork and documentation of under-studied creoles and other contact varieties. Michael accepted the challenge and secured funding for his dissertation work in Panama, pursuing the status and sociolinguistic history of Panamanian creole – at the time, an unknown variety of the Eastern Caribbean.

Michael began publishing at an early stage of his career, while in graduate school and some of Michael’s most cited articles were published during his tenure as a graduate student at UT.

Michael held academic appointments at the University of Puerto Rico and Old Dominion University before eventually moving to East Carolina University in Greenville, which he loved. His career flourished at ECU resulting in a number of his most important publications. Facing the issues that confront all linguists who hold appointments outside the disciplinary department, Michael engaged the students in the English program in such a way that garnered their respect for linguistics and what it could tell them about the literary aspects of English. We often commiserated about being outsiders in our respective departments and how we could further integrate what we did into the curriculum and ideology of our departments.

Michael held a keen skepticism for non-empirical Creolistics. His own work was empirically based, deriving from in situ field research on several understudied varieties (Barbudan creole, Statian creole, Panamanian creole, and Kokoy, to mention only the most well-known contributions). His skepticism and empiricism gained him immense respect from his colleagues, and he held an important editorial position on the Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages for many years.

I will miss Michael’s sharp wit, his open-mindedness, and his spirit of discovery. Linguistics will miss his significant contributions to the discipline and what documentation of marginalized languages can show us about larger patterns of social and structural variation.

Jeffrey P. Williams, Texas Tech University

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Language Family(ies): Caribbean

Page Updated: 04-Aug-2021