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Kenneth L. Pike (1912–2000)

A Chronology of His Life and Work


Kenneth Lee Pike was born on June 9 in East Woodstock, Connecticut, the seventh of eight children of a country medical doctor (Univ. of Michigan, 1898), Ernest Reginald Pike (1872–1955) and his wife, May Granniss Pike (1873–1951).


Eunice Victoria Pike was born November 6 in East Woodstock, Connecticut, the eighth child of Ernest and May Pike.


Evelyn Griset was born March 1 in Santa Ana, California, to Eugene and Lula Griset. Lula was the sister of William Cameron Townsend.


Kenneth Pike attended Woodstock Academy where he played Don Jose in the Operetta, "The Belle of Barcelona" in the spring.


Ken graduated first in his class of twelve from Woodstock Academy. His valedictory address was published in the Putnam Patriot of June 21, 1928.


Pike started classes at Gordon College of Theology and Missions in Boston, Massachusetts.


On December 25 Pike sent an application to the China Inland Mission, but after attending the candidate school in 1933 he was turned down for membership.


Pike was one of the commencement speakers at his graduation from Gordon College of Theology and Missions where he received a Th. B.


Pike took a year of advanced study at Gordon College.


Pike hitchhiked from Woodstock, Connecticut, to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, to attend the second session of "Camp Wycliffe". He was one of five men students, all of whom went to Mexico with Mr. Townsend to do field work. That fall Pike made his first visit to a Mixtec village.


Pike moved to the Mixtec village of San Miguel to concentrate on learning to speak Mixtec. He attended the third session of Camp Wycliffe, where he taught phonetics and "developed a monolingual demonstration to teach students what they could do if they were trying to learn a language in some area where there is no alphabet, no dictionary, no written grammar, and no interpreter available to them." That fall Pike allocated Eunice Pike and Florence Hansen in a Mazatec village in Mexico. Ken broke his leg in October and started writing on phonetics during his convalescence.


Pike participated in the Linguistic Week in Mexico City in January. He resided in San Miguel and made a language survey trip to the coast in April. His first published articles appeared in Investigaciones Lingüísticas in Mexico. Pike was admitted to the Graduate School of the University of Michigan where he studied with Edward Sapir. He spent the Fall in San Miguel, analyzing tone. In December he wrote a thirteen page article, "A Translation Technic."


Pike spent the first of the year in San Miguel. He co-directed the Summer Institute of Linguistics school in Arkansas with Eugene Nida and continued as co-director each summer through 1950. In November he married Evelyn Griset in Mexico City. The following week at the Linguistic Week meetings, he gave a paper, "Analysis and Charting of Phonetics, Phonemics and Tonemics." The Pikes spent the remainder of the year in San Miguel.


Pike built their log cabin home in San Miguel. He wrote a poem at Christmas, "Merry Christmas and a happy house" (the house was later given to the town of San Miguel). He taught in the town school in San Miguel. Evelyn constructed the first draft of a primer in Mixtec. They spent the summer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Ken passed his French and Spanish language exams.


Pike taught at SIL at Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, before and after going to Ann Arbor for the Linguistic Institute. Daughter, Judith Lee, was born on July 1 in Santa Ana, California. C.C. Fries, Carl E. Guthe, A. L. Barckwardt, Leonard Bloomfield, R. H. Keniston were assigned as Pike's doctoral committee.


Pike worked in San Miguel on agriculture, water supply, industry, education projects along with language analysis and translation. He started work on a second phonetics book, did language survey, spent the summer at Camp Wycliffe, and completed requirements for his Ph.D.


The Ph.D. (linguistics) from the University of Michigan was conferred on Feb. 27. Pike's dissertation, A reconstruction of phonetic theory, was published in 1943 as Phonetics: a critical analysis of phonetic theory and technic for the practical description of sounds. Pike was co-director of the Summer Institute of Linguistics during its first summer on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The Summer Institute of Linguistics was incorporated in California. Wycliffe Bible Translators was incorporated as a supplementary organization with headquarters in Glendale, California. Pike became the first President of SIL, a post he held until his retirement in 1979.


Pike finished a preliminary edition of Tone languages: the nature of tonemic systems, with a technique for the analysis of their significant pitch contrasts which was published in Glendale, California. Pike taught at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was invited by the American Bible Society to travel to Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia to study and advise on orthography problems of the Quechua dialects in those countries.


During his time in Lima, Peru, Pike gave a series of lectures for high school teachers of English. Analysis of a Mixteco text was published in IJAL.


Pike was a Lloyd Post-Doctoral Fellow of the University of Michigan doing research on The Intonation of American English, Mazateco Tone Fusion, Tone Languages, Phonemic Principles and Procedures . The Intonation of American English was published by the University of Michigan Press. Daughter Barbara was born February 23 in Mexico City.


Angel Merecias and his family traveled from their Mixtec village in Mexico to Norman, Oklahoma, for the summer, and then on to Santa Ana, California. They worked on the Mixtec New Testament the rest of that year. Ken was an instructor at the Linguistic Institute Summer Session of the University of Michigan. He gave a monolingual demonstration at the LSA meeting in Chicago.


The first draft of the Mixtec New Testament was finished. Phonemics: A technique for reducing languages to writing , was published by the University of Michigan. Pike spent April and May in Chiapas, Mexico, making arrangements for the Jungle Camp Training Program which he directed in November and December, and again in December 1948.


Pike planned the Mixteca Alta reading campaign. The University of Michigan published Tone Languages: a technique for determining the number and type of pitch contrasts in a language, with studies in tonemic substitution and fusion. Pike was appointed Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan. Son Stephen was born November 27 in Santa Ana, California.


Early history of the development of Pike's ideas on tagmemics is recorded in notes from March through May. The Pikes did a survey of the Pima and Papago languages on both sides of the Mexico-Arizona border in October. He was elected to the Council of the International Phonetic Association in London. He traveled to Australia and N.E. New Guinea in November and December, working on the tonal language of Telefomin.


Pike directed the first Wycliffe School of Linguistics in Berwick, Victoria, Australia, from January through March. Late spring Pikes were in Michigan, then in Norman, Oklahoma for the summer and in Mexico for the remainder of the year. The first edition (25 p.) of Pike's Axioms and procedures for reconstructions in comparative linguistics: an experimental syllabus was published by SIL.


The Mixtec N.T. (El Nuevo Testamento de nuestro senor Jesucristo en el Idioma Mixteco de San Miguel el Grande) was published in Mexico. Pike made contacts in Great Britain about starting a linguistic school there. He attended UNESCO meetings in Paris in November.


Pikes taught at the SIL school in Australia. He received a Rockefeller Foundation Grant for Research and began writing his book Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior.


Pike continued writing Language… He helped set up and teach at the first Wycliffe Language Course in London.


A preliminary edition of Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior was published by SIL in Glendale, CA. (1954–1960). Pike was appointed full Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan.


Pike taught the spring semester at the University of Michigan, the summer at Oklahoma SIL, and led a workshop in Peru from Oct. 1955 to March 1956.


During a sabbatical from the University of Michigan, Pike led linguistic workshops in Peru and Ecuador. He also traveled to Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia visiting university and government officials. Pike gave the W.H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship for 1956 at Dallas Theological Seminary on "Language and Life." The lectures were subsequently published in four issues of Bibliotheca Sacra (1957–58).


Pike traveled to South America in May and lectured in Brazil and in Argentina on the topic "Language as particle, wave and field," which was published as an article in Texas Quarterly 2(2): 37–54.


Pike was named Alumnus of the Year at Gordon College, Massachusetts. He led a linguistic workshop in Peru with analysts working on 25 languages. He lectured for a week at the LSA summer session at the U. of Texas both in 1960 and 1961.


The Peru workshop continued through March. Pike worked with linguists in Ecuador in May preparing manuscripts for publication. Pike served as president of the Linguistic Society of America for this 1961 year. "Current Strategy in Missions" by Pike and Glasser was published by His magazine. Pike and Glasser were on a panel at the Urbana Student Missions Conference in December.


Pike led a linguistic workshop in Papua New Guinea from February through June. He attended the Ninth International Congress of Linguists in Cambridge, MA, in August. He taught at Michigan for the fall semester and confirmed plans to teach two full academic years at Michigan with one off, which he continued until his retirement in 1979.


Pike traveled in India in February visiting several linguists in different cities. He led a three month linguistic workshop in the Philippines.


Pike lectured at the the German SIL. He gave a paper, "On the grammar of intonation," at the Fifth International Phonetics Congress in Munster, Germany, in August, which was published in the Proceedings.


Pike traveled to Ghana in November to lead a linguistic workshop which was part of the project "Tagmemic and Matrix Linguistics Applied to Selected African Languages." The results were published in 1970 in the SIL Publications in Linguistics and Related Fields Series.


Pike was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award at the University of Michigan.


Ken and Evelyn traveled to the Mixtec village of San Miguel el Grande, and gave the house that Ken had built to the Municipality. The second revised edition of Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior was published by Mouton in the Janua Linguarum Series. Eerdmans published Stir, Change, Create, a book of "Poems and essays in a contemporary mood for concerned students." In August Ken and Evelyn traveled to Europe lecturing in England and Germany. Ken gave a paper in Romania at the Tenth International Congress of Linguists.


During the summer Pike was a Visiting Professor of the Linguistic Society of Europe, in Kiel, Germany . He was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, California. (1968–1969).


In August, Pike lectured at Deccan College and at Delhi University in India.


Ken participated in a Symposium in Wartenstein, Austria on a Survey of World Languages. Rhetoric: Discovery and Change, written with Richard E. Young and Alton L. Becker, was published by Harcourt, Brace and World.


Pike directed a U.S. Office of Education project in Nepal (Clause, Sentence, and Discourse in Selected Languages of Nepal and India) in the fall.


Pike led a two-month workshop in India and lectured in major linguistic centers in universities of South India. Pike attended the Eleventh International Congress of Linguists in Bologna, Italy, in August, giving a paper in a tagmemics section at the Congress. Pike visited the British SIL on his way to Italy. Kenneth L. Pike: selected writings to commemorate the 60th birthday of Kenneth Lee Pike, edited by Ruth Brend was published by Mouton.


Pike was awarded the Charles C. Fries Professorship in Linguistics at the University of Michigan. (1974–1979).

Pike conducted a three-week linguistics seminar in the Philippines where he was awarded the Presidential Merit Medal of the Philippines by President Ferdinand Marcos. Pike gave a week of lectures in Japan.

He led a linguistics seminar in Papua New Guinea in September and October and a linguistics seminar in Darwin, Australia, from December and into 1975.


Pike led a two-month linguistic workshop in Irian Jaya, also lecturing in Jakarta, Indonesia. He led a West Africa Linguistic Seminar in Nigeria in April. Pike was appointed to chair the Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan for two years.


Pike served as Director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan (1976–1977 academic year). He traveled to Switzerland for SIL Board meetings, then visited linguists and lectured in Germany and France. Evelyn Pike was appointed Lecturer at the University of Michigan in the Department of Linguistics.


Grammatical Analysis by Pike and Pike was published in the SIL Publications in Linguistics Series. Pike served as president of the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States. A TV series of five programs titled "Pike on Language" was produced by the University of Michigan Television Center in cooperation with the University of Michigan Department of Linguistics.


Pike visited Suriname and Brazil in January. He traveled and gave lectures in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama from February through April. The Pikes led a linguistic workshop in Ivory Coast in October and November. Pike was awarded the Docteur Honoris Causa, L'Universite Rene Descartes, at the Sorbonne, Paris, on November 9th. He gave a lecture, "Here We Stand—Creative Observers of Language" as part of the reception ceremonies (published in 1980).


Pike lectured in Hyderabad and Calcutta, India, in January. He lectured in Bangkok, Singapore and Malaysia in February. He lectured in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in March. In April and May he lectured in the Philippines.

Pike retired from the University of Michigan in June. He was named Professor Emeritus of Linguistics in December. In June he resigned as President of SIL and was named President Emeritus of SIL. He attended the 9th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Copenhagen in August, giving a paper "Universals and phonetic hierarchy," which was published in the proceedings. Videotapes of "Pike on Language" were shown throughout the four days of the Congress. In the fall he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington.


In September Pike traveled and lectured in Brazil, Panama and Colombia. In November he lectured at the University of Hong Kong. In November and December the Pikes were in Beijing, China, visiting with linguists and giving a series of lectures.


Pike led a consultant training workshop in Papua New Guinea in January and February. He lectured in Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney in March. The Pikes led a workshop in Togo, Africa, from September through November.


From January through March the Pikes led workshops in Sudan and Ivory Coast. Linguistic concepts: an introduction to tagmemics was published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Pike was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (and subsequently nominated for the next 15 years). He was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts and The Kenneth L. Pike Honors Program was initiated at Gordon College.


Text and Tagmeme by Pike and Pike was published by Ablex. Pike gave a paper "Towards the linguistic analysis of one’s own poems" at the Tenth LACUS Forum in Montreal in August. In October Pike gave a paper "On the value of local languages" at the 5th Delaware Symposium on Language Studies, which was published in the proceedings in 1986.


Ken and Evelyn Pike traveled to San Miguel for two days in January. They received an invitation from the mayor to return for a longer visit. Pike was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. in May. Pikes attended the 7th World Congress of Applied Linguistics in Brussels, Belgium. Ken gave a paper written with Barbara Keller, "The Integration of self in society through language," published in the plenary papers. At the Eleventh LACUS Forum at Cornell in August Pike gave a paper "The need for the rejection of autonomy in linguistics," which he called his "first explicit philosophy-type paper presented to a public society meeting." Pike attended the Edward Sapir Centenary Conference in Ottawa in October, and then traveled to Mexico giving lectures at the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey. The Pikes visited San Miguel again in December.


Pikes continued in Mexico through March. Pike was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in April. At the LSA/TESOL Summer Institute in June Pike gave a paper, "Bridging language learning, language analysis, and poetry, via experimental syntax." Pikes spent September–December in Guatemala except for a week in September when Pike went to Spain to give a paper to the Third Congress on Theory and Method in the Sciences, "The relation of language to world view (Philosophy)." Pike attended the Eastern meeting of the American Philosophical Association in December, where he determined that "the climate is ripe for linguistics once more to make a contribution."


Pike's article "Mixtec social ‘credit rating’: The particular versus the universal in one emic world view." was published in the May Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The Pikes traveled to Indonesia and lectured in universities in Irian Jaya, Maluku, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Jakarta. Pikes were in Thailand for one month, lecturing first at the National Conference of Linguistics and World View at Thammasat University and then at other universities in Bangkok and in Chiangmai. Pike lectured at RELC in Singapore and gave a lecture and monolingual demonstration at the National University of Singapore. He lectured at several venues in Malaysia. In October he gave a series of eight lectures on "Language and World View" at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. At the December American Anthropological Association meetings Pike gave a paper "Cultural relativism in relation to constraints on world view: An emic perspective." (published in 1988). The Pikes purchased a home across the road from the International Linguistics Center in Dallas, where they resided until his death in 2000.


Pike was presented a copy of Language in global perspective: papers in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1935–1985, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., commemorating "A Half Century of Service Among The World's Minority Language Groups." Pike lectured and/or gave monolingual demonstrations at four universities in California in March. He lectured at Oberlin College in April. The Pikes hosted Harvard professor and philosopher, Willard Quine and his wife at Norman, Oklahoma, where Quine had been invited to lecture. Pike gave a series of lectures in Peru and Chile in September. He was named Profesor Honorario at the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Peru. Pike did a lecture tour of 20 colleges in California and Arizona in October and November.


Ken and Evelyn Pike flew to Moscow in April on a Fulbright lectureship, where they were hosted by the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages. Both Ken and Evelyn lectured to various audiences. They traveled and lectured in Leningrad, Estonia and Tbilisi.

At the 87th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Phoenix, Arizona, in November, there was a special symposium on "Emics and Etics: Two Views of Their History and Application in Linguistics and Anthropology—A Dialogue Between Kenneth Pike and Marvin Harris." The papers and discussion were published in 1990 as Emics and etics: the insider/outsider debate, edited by Thomas N. Headland, Kenneth L. Pike, Marvin Harris.

Pike attended the 85th annual meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association at the end of December.


Pike gave a monolingual demonstration at International Week at UTA in April. In May he gave a paper "Contrast and cline: paradigmatic and syntagmatic hierarchical chunks and prosodies," at the International Conference on Linguistic Approaches to Phonetics in honor of Professor J.C. Catford at the University of Michigan. In May and June the Pikes traveled to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan meeting linguists and lecturing. In Vietnam Pike met for the first time a number of linguists who knew Pike through reading his materials. Pike gave monolingual demonstrations in Hong Kong and in Taiwan. Pikes attended the AAA meetings in Washington, DC, in November and the annual APA meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, in December.


Pike gave a paper in April to a meeting of the North Texas Philosophical Association, "Hierarchical Context is Crucial To Our Understanding Anything—An Emic Perspective". Pike was elected as an honorary member of the International Association of Collective Contribution to Language Learning in Moscow. Pike taught a course "Philosophy and Language" the fall term at the University of Texas at Arlington.


Pikes traveled to Colombia, Peru, and Brazil in April and May, lecturing and discussing linguistics and philosophy with SIL colleagues, local linguists and philosophers. One of Pike's lectures in Brazil was, "The history of half a century of linguistics as seen by one who lived it." Ken and Evelyn were in Germany in July. Ken gave a paper "Paradigmatic and syntagmatic features or prosodies in sound, syllable, word or poem" at an Intonation Colloquium in Freiburg [published 1994]. Ken and Evelyn both gave papers at the European Linguistic Society in Kiel, Germany. Ken's 80th birthday was celebrated early at the 18th LACUS Forum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with papers by a number of colleagues and Pike's plenary session, "Person Beyond Logic, in Language, Life, and Philosophy."


The Pikes attended the Third International Symposium on Language and Linguistics in Thailand in January. They lectured in five universities. They traveled to Jakarta for a week with a reception one evening honoring the translation of Pike's Linguistic Concepts into Indonesian (Konsep linguistik: Pengantar teori tagmemik).

In February and March Pike lectured in five universities in Egypt. In April Pike lectured in Washington, D.C., at the 37th Annual Conference of the International Linguistic Association on "Experimental Linguistics and Language Learning" and at GURT on "A brief update on my interest in relating language to philosophy." He was presented the Dean's Medal at Georgetown University. Pikes were in Germany that summer. They lectured at Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg.


Ken and Evelyn were in Spain (Madrid, Granada, Cordoba, Seville) from January 1 to February 4. Ken gave a plenary paper, "A Holistic Semantics—the semantics of phonology, grammar, and reference," at the International Conference of Applied Linguistics at University of Granada [published 1995]. In Cordoba Ken and Evelyn gave a series of five lectures. In Seville, Ken lectured at the Universidad de Sevilla. In Madrid he lectured at University Complutense de Madrid and at University Autonoma de Madrid. Pike's book, Talk, thought, and thing: The emic road toward conscious knowledgewas published. Pike said that this book "culminates ten years of concentration, on my part, to show how commitment to unproved beliefs are necessary for a science…"

Pike was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy, honoris causa from Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany, at a ceremony on July 6. Pike's lecture was "Language and Living." In August he lectured at Georgetown University at the International Conference on the History of Language Sciences (ICHoLS VI) on "Beyond the History of History: a Future Matrix History of the Past."


In early February Pike lectured at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. In late February he gave several lectures in Mexico. In March he gave a series of lectures in California colleges. In May Pike was the plenary session speaker at the 4th International Conference on Southeast Asian Linguistics (SEALS IV) in Thailand, lecturing on "Semantics in a Holistic Context." In August he gave a paper "The Concepts of Emic and Etic" at the International Federation of Scholarly Associations of Management conference. In December the Pikes attended AAA meetings without giving papers.

The International Linguistics Center honored Kenneth Pike for his 60 years of service to the Summer Institute of Linguistics and Wycliffe Bible Translators. A portrait of Ken was presented and put on permanent display in the Pike Building on the ILC campus.


In March at a presession of GURT on the History of Linguistics, Ken gave a paper "Tagmemics in Retrospect." At the Conference of College Composition and Communication Ken spoke at a session "Tagmemics: Rediscovery and Change." In August the Pikes attended the International Conference on New Guinea Languages and Linguistics at Cenderawasih University, Irian Jaya. Ken gave two papers and Evelyn gave a paper "A Linguistic Workshop: Twenty Years Later—Referential Hierarchy." In October the Pikes attended the annual conference of the Semiotic Society of America in San Antonio, where Ken gave the opening, plenary session,"Semantic Domains Seen as Spokes Emerging from the Hub of a Knowledge Wheel, but Linked in a Rim of Experience."


The mystery of culture contacts, historical reconstruction, and text analysis: an emic approach, with three articles coauthored by Pike was published by Georgetown University Press. In April Pike gave three lectures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, "Phonetics Around the World: from Etics to Emics," "Pitch Around the World: From Tone to Intonation," and "Semantics around the World: From the Universal to the Particular." In May Pike gave an Introduction to a Monolingual Demonstration (given by C. Walton) at a meeting of the Dallas chapter of the United Nations Association.


Ken attended a conference at the University of North Texas, "Languaging: The Ninth Annual Conference on Linguistics and Literature."

Seasons of life: A complete collection of Kenneth L. Pike poetry (5 vols.) was published by SIL.


Pike gave a lecture on his poetry to Lingua, the UTA Linguistic Club, in October.

Ken and Evelyn celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.


Pike was honored as a Significant Contributor to the Field of English as a Second Language by ESL magazine, where he was cited as one of the pioneers whose dedicated work helped define the profession.


In March Ken gave a lecture on poetry to a class at UT Arlington. In June he spoke to the residents of Presbyterian Village, the retirement center where Eunice had been living since 1995. In August Ken gave a lecture on the organizational culture of SIL International, to new management trainees as he had been doing annually for some years. In November Ken and Evelyn celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary. Ken continued his extensive correspondence, penning hand-written notes through late December, when he was hospitalized. On December 31, 2000, Kenneth Pike finished his work on earth.