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Life and Work of Kenneth L. Pike *

Internationally Acclaimed Linguist Dies

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DALLAS, TX, January 2, 2001—SIL International President Emeritus Kenneth Lee Pike died Sunday, December 31 in Dallas, Texas after a brief illness. An internationally recognized linguist, educator, and Christian statesman, Dr. Pike’s contributions to the field of linguistics combined with his dedication to the minority peoples of the world brought him nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the Templeton Prize.

Dr. Pike was born in East Woodstock, Connecticut, on June 9, 1912, the next to youngest of eight children of a country doctor, Ernest R. Pike. He attended Gordon College of Theology and Missions (then in Boston). In 1935 he joined SIL and served in Mexico working on the Mixtec language. He later attended the University of Michigan where he received his PhD in Linguistics under Charles Fries and later served for 30 years on the faculty. Pike was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees from universities around the world. He served as President of the Linguistic Society of America, the Linguistic Association of Canada and the U.S., and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.

One of Pike’s major goals was to help colleagues with their linguistic challenges. To that end, he established workshops around the world, helped thousands of students and field researchers with difficult analytical challenges in minority languages, and contributed greatly to the social sciences through his notion of the etic/emic distinction. He was actively involved in academic publication until his death.

In addition to his contributions to the field of linguistics, Pike was a prolific poet and Christian philosopher. In his book, With Heart and Mind, Pike defended scholarly and intellectual approaches to Christianity, maintaining that Christian faith and academic scholarship can be intimately integrated.

Pike became President of SIL in 1942 and continued in that role until 1979. He divided his time between the University of Michigan and SIL, as Director of SIL at the University of Oklahoma and helped established SIL schools around the world.

Pike is survived by his wife Evelyn; three adult children, Judith Schram, Barbara Ibach, and Stephen Pike; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and one sister, Dr. Eunice V. Pike.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be sent to the Pike Scholarship Fund at SIL International, 7500 W. Camp Wisdom Road, Dallas, Texas, 75236 U.S.A.

SIL International is a non-governmental organization working with minority and indigenous communities in more than fifty countries worldwide. It is part of an international network of partner organizations promoting languages and cultures where little written tradition exists. Members of SIL cooperate with local communities in linguistic and anthropological research, translation, literacy, and education.

Excerpts from some of the tributes presented at the memorial service, held on January 6, 2001, and from others received later are posted on the Kenneth L Pike website.