In Memoriam

Lila Gleitman 1929-2021.

The Department of Linguistics and the Department of Psychology are saddened to announce the passing of Professor Emeritus Lila Gleitman, a champion of cognitive science, a mentor to many of her field’s leaders, and an inspiration to all.  

Her work on children’s word learning, concepts, and grammar established many of the empirical results and theoretical questions that are central to debate today. She never shied from debate, but leavened every interaction with her unmistakable wit.

We all rose higher in her presence, and offer our fondest farewells.

External Link: 

New York Times Obituary

Dr. Henry Hiz, professor emeritus of linguistics, died on December 19, 2007.  He was 89 years old.

Dr. Hiz was born in Leningrad, Russia, to Polish parents. He was a resident of Warsaw, Poland, from 1920 to 1944. From 1940 to 1945 he was a member of the Polish resistance against German occupation.

Dr. Hiz received his B.A. in 1937 at the Ray Liceum in Warsaw, and went on to study philosophy at Warsaw University until 1939, when the war interrupted his studies. After the war he received his M.A. in philosophy at the Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgium) in 1946; in 1948 he received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard University.

Beginning in the spring of 1951, Dr. Hiz served off-and-on as a visiting lecturer in philosophy at Penn. In 1959 he co-directed a research project with Dr. Zellig Harris, in the department of linguistics that resulted in the creation of the first computer program that could analyze the grammar of a human language, today known as a spelling and grammar checker. Dr. Hiz permanently joined the faculty when he was hired as an associate professor of linguistics in 1960. He was promoted to professor in 1964. From 1966 to 1973 he served as the chairman of the graduate group in linguistics. Dr. Hiz retired in 1988.

Dr. Hiz was a member of numerous mathematical and philosophical organizations. He had served as editor of a Formal Linguistics Series of books in 1970-71. He authored Questions (Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy) in 1978 and co-authored Papers on Syntax in 1981. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in 1976.

Prior to coming to Penn, Dr. Hiz taught philosophy, Slavic languages and mathematics at the Underground University of Warsaw (1940-44, 1949-50), Harvard University (1948-49), University of Lodz (1950), Brooklyn College (1950), New York University (1950), University of Utah (1951-1953) and Penn State University (1954).

Dr. Henry M. Hoenigswald, emeritus professor of linguistics, died on June 16, 2003.  He was 88 years old.

Dr. Hoenigswald earned his academic degrees in the classics and Indo-European studies from the University of Munich, the University of Padua and the University of Florence before fleeing Europe in 1939 to escape the Nazis. After immigrating to the U.S., Dr. Hoeingswald taught at Yale University and the University of Texas. He also worked for the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department.

He joined the Penn faculty in 1948 and was appointed professor of lingustics in 1959. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1950 and received a fellowship form the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1962. Dr. Hoenigswald retired from Penn in 1985.

He was a former president of the Linguistic Society of America and the Philadelphia Classical Society. Additionally, he was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In memoriam Anthony Kroch (1946-2021)

With great sadness, we report the death of Anthony (Tony) Kroch, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

The following obituary supplements the one that appeared in the New York Times and focuses on Tony's contributions to the field of linguistics.  It also appeared in Language Variation and Change, the journal that Tony co-founded with William Labov and David Sankoff in 1989.

 Tony graduated from Harvard in 1967, having majored in anthropology, and undertook graduate studies in linguistics at MIT with the aim of furthering his understanding of the narrative structure of myth.  At MIT, his interests broadened, and his doctoral thesis was one of the first investigations of quantifier scope in natural language.  The thesis, completed in 1974, was published in 1979 by Garland Press.  Following appointments in the Anthropology Departments at the University of Connecticut and Temple University, Tony obtained a fellowship in 1978 with William Labov to conduct sociolinguistic interviews with upper-class Philadelphians, which were important in rounding out and confirming the description of the intricate pattern of Philadelphia speech that had emerged from interviews with working-class and middle-class speakers.  In 1981, Tony joined the faculty of the Linguistics Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained for the rest of his career, apart from periodic visiting professorships in the United States and abroad.  He retired in 2020.

Tony's work in linguistics was notable for the breadth of its range and the depth of its insight.  The great bulk of his work, both published and unpublished, was carried out in collaboration with others, in accordance with his convivial character.  Working with Aravind Joshi in the University of Pennsylvania's Computer Science Department, Tony applied Joshi's formalism of Tree-Adjoining Grammar to provide mathematically precise characterizations of theoretically important constructions in natural language.  Perhaps most widely known is his work on syntactic change, which led him to discover a mathematical result known as the Constant Rate Effect.  The result was published in 1989, in the very first volume of Language Variation and Change.  At around the same time, together with David Lightfoot and Ian Roberts, Tony helped bring into existence a conference called Diachronic Generative Syntax (DiGS), which continues up to the present.  In order to provide a suitable infrastructure for the work on syntactic change, Tony pioneered the construction of large syntactically annotated historical corpora.  In this, he was assisted from the 1990s on by Ann Taylor, who continued to construct historical corpora after her appointment at the University of York, England, and by Beatrice Santorini.  With Beth Randall, Tony developed a powerful and versatile tool to search the corpora, which formed the empirical basis for his own work, but even more importantly from his point of view, the basis for replication and extension by other researchers.  The conceptual beauty of the results that he and his students were able to obtain resonated with researchers to the point of motivating the construction of an increasing number of parsed corpora for other languages both historical and modern.  Tony's desire to exploit the existence of ever larger corpora in order to increase the statistical reliability of his results led him to collaborate closely with computational linguists, often students of Aravind Joshi's.  A final strand of Tony's research investigated the syntax-semantics interface, with a focus on various types of copular sentences, with the aim of elucidating the overarching architecture of grammar.

Though he made his career in linguistics, Tony felt himself to be less of a traditional linguist than an applied mathematician.  Early on, as a college freshman, he realized that his mathematical talent, though it turned out to be versatile, was not of a caliber sufficient to support a career in mathematics.  Instead, Tony marshalled the forces at his disposal in the service of driving linguistics in a scientific direction by mathematicizing the field wherever he saw or could create the opportunity.

Tony loved life, and especially, he loved the life of the mind as it expresses itself in dialogue.  We knew him as a gifted student and researcher, talented teacher, generous mentor, careful listener, skillful debater, engaging presenter, effective negotiator, genial and witty conversation partner, shrewd counsellor, seizer of the main chance and procrastinator extraordinaire, haven in the storm and secret worry-wart, a bundle of paradoxes like life itself.  He was not one to suffer fools gladly, and he could be tart.  But he was neither arrogant nor mean, and he was a very good man to have in your corner.  To many of us, he embodied the concept of mensch.  To the best of his ability, he attempted to strengthen the life of the communities that he belonged to and to defend and further their interests.  Beyond what he had to say to us about linguistics, it is the model of this posture that many of us who knew him treasure as a gift beyond words.  Tony will be missed by scores of us, both in the United States and around the world.  We remember him with gratitude, respect, and affection - with sadness, but also with laughter.  It is to be hoped that the various strands of his linguistic work will be carried forward.  Nothing, but nothing, could give him greater joy!


Dr. Leigh Lisker, emeritus professor of linguistics, died on March 24, 2006, in Philadelphia. He was 87 years old. 

A three-time Penn alumnus, Dr. Lisker received his A.B. in 1941, with a major in German, his M.A. in 1946, and a Ph.D. in 1949 in linguistics. He was a major figure in phonetics, working both at Penn and at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, CT, where he was a senior scientist from 1951 until the end of his life. He collaborated with several phoneticians, principally Arthur S. Abramson. Dr. Lisker also made important contributions to Dravidian linguistics, including the book Introduction to Spoken Telugu, and did research comparing phonetic and phonological perceptions on the part of linguistically naive and linguistically sophisticated speakers of different native language backgrounds. He conducted such studies in collaboration with Dr. Abramson of the University of Connecticut, Bh. Krishnamurti of Hyderabad University, India, Adrian Fourcin of London University, and M. Rossie of the Institute de Phonétique at the Univervsité de Provence, Aix-en-Provence. 

Dr. Lisker spent almost his entire career at Penn, where he was one of the first members of the linguistics department. He began as an assistant instructor of German in 1947 and began teaching linguistics in 1949. From 1951-1959 he was an assistant professor of linguistics and Dravidian linguistics, he was associate professor of linguistics and Dravidian linguistics,1960-1964, and professor of linguistics from 1965 until his retirement in 1989. He also served as chairman of the department of linguistics, 1970-1978. He was a visiting professor at Georgetown University, Princeton University, Columbia University, the Central Institute of Indian Languages (Mysore, India), and Osmania University (Hyderabad, India). 

Dr. Lisker received several awards, including a 1967 Guggenheim fellowship and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Fulbright Foundation. He was elected fellow of the Acoustical Society of America in 1979. 

Dr. Ellen Prince, professor emerita of linguistics, died of cancer on October 24, 2010, at her home in Philadelphia. She was 66 years old.

Born in Brooklyn in 1944, Dr. Prince earned a BA (1964) and MA (1967) in French from Brooklyn College. She did graduate work in linguistics at NYU before earning a PhD from Penn in 1974.  She joined the faculty of the Penn Linguistics Department as an associate professor that same year.  She was promoted to full professor in 1987 and served as chair of the department from 1993 to 1997. Dr. Prince also held a secondary appointment in the department of computer and information science.  She retired and was accorded emeritus status in 2005. 

She was a visiting professor at many universities in the US and abroad, including the University of Amsterdam, Charles University in Prague and Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Dr. Prince was also active in the affairs of the Linguistic Society of America, serving on the executive committee and in many other capacities. Among her many honors were the Presidency of the Linguistic Society of America in 2008 and election to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A pioneer in linguistic pragmatics, Dr. Prince worked on her own and with many colleagues and students on various aspects of the subject. Several of her incisive and tightly argued papers became classics in the field. She is perhaps best known for her typology of information statuses in discourse, based on the study of naturally-occurring data;  she also devoted major efforts to the study of the pragmatic functions of syntactic constructions, including the various species of cleft and left-periphery constructions, including topicalization and left-dislocation. She had a particular interest in Yiddish and used her knowledge of that language to do groundbreaking work on the cross-linguistic comparison of the pragmatic functions of syntactic constructions. In later years, she continued her work on the referential status of noun phrases in the framework of centering theory, as developed by colleagues Aravind Joshi, Scott Weinstein and Barbara Grosz.