REMEMBERING ILSE LEHISTE
We are deeply saddened by the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend, Ilse Lehiste, on December 25, 2010. This page is dedicated to the memory of Ilse. If you would like to contribute text or photos, please send them to email@example.com.
A memorial fund has been set up to honor Ilse. Donations can be made online or by sending your contribution to the Ilse Lehiste Memorial Fund (#313586), c/o The Ohio State University Foundation, Office of University Development, 1480 West Lane Avenue Columbus, OH., 43221.
Ilse receiving one of her four honorary doctorates.
Ilse was born on January 31, 1922 in Tallinn, Estonia, but left Estonia as a refugee in 1944, fleeing the Soviet invasion of her homeland. She earned her first Ph.D., in Philology, from the University of Hamburg in 1948 and a second Ph.D., in Linguistics, from the University of Michigan in 1959. In 1963, Ilse joined the faculty at The Ohio State University. Ilse came to OSU from the University of Michigan, after receiving her Ph.D., and spending 1959-63 at the Communication Sciences Laboratory as Research Associate. At Ohio State, she divided her time between phonetics, historical linguistics, and administration, serving as Chair 1965-71, Acting Chair 1984-85, and again Chair 1985-87. In fact, she was the Department's first Chair (1965-1971) when it was founded in 1965, after having spent two years in the Slavic Department. Professor Emeritus since 1987.
Ilse enjoyed a long and distinguished career. She was the author, co-author or editor of 20 books, about 200 articles and over 100 reviews. Ilse was honored in many ways for her immense contributions to the field of linguistics. At The Ohio State University, she was awarded the title of Distinguished University Professor and received the University Distinguished Scholar Award, the university's highest recognition for scholarly achievement. She also held four honorary doctorates from Essex University, England (1977), the University of Lund, Sweden (1982), Tartu University, Estonia (1989), and The Ohio State University (1999). She was Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences since 1998, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1990, and Foreign Member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (2008).
Faculty dinner, autumn 2009. Ilse plays the piano and tries to teach the linguistics faculty to sing an Estonian folk song in Finnish. I don't think we impressed her very much with our Finnish!
Ilse's beautiful reading of lines from the "Maeg ic be me sylfum ..." poem, translated into Modern English, as "The Seafarer".
Ilse at the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Barcelona 2003.
From The Rev. Dr. William E. Boys, Ph.D., OSU Linguistics 1979
I met Dr. Lehiste in the fall of 1967, when my wife and I had been evacuated from Biafra following that attempt at secession from Nigeria. Being a legal resident of Ohio, and being designated for language analysis of the Eket dialect of Eastern Nigeria at the time, it made eminent sense to enroll in Linguistics at Ohio State until the short (why do we always think wars will be short?) Biafran war was over. Dr. Lehiste honored us by accepting an invitation to lunch at our apartment on N. High St. As the war lingered on, eventually I was able to complete my Ph.D. at OSU, even though Nigeria’s eventual decision to deny us return visas altered my career plans. But my memories of Dr. Lehiste’s leadership of the department, and indeed all of the faculty at that time, remain one of the very most positive and influential events of my life.
I took Prof. Lehiste's Language Contact seminar not long after I entered the dept. I think it was the winter of 82 or 83. I was impressed by the breath of knowledge that she possessed. I was very green then, knowing very little about linguistics, but Prof. Lehiste was very encouraging. It was then that I became interested in the Dungan people, a Chinese speaking community in Central Asia, surrounded by Turkic and Russian speakers. Not only has it been influenced by the Turkic and Russian languages, it also has been written with Arabic and Cyrillic scripts at various times. It was the only class I took with her. I would have liked to take more classes from her. Regards, Zheng-sheng Zhang San Diego State University
Eulogy by Craige Roberts, The Ohio State University Department of Linguistics
December 30, 2010
Her areas of research included:
A few highlights from her long list of honors:
In her retirement, Ilse’s long-standing interest in prosody led her to three important projects. The first was the phonetic investigation of metrical structure in orally produced poetry. In her own words (“History of Phonetics at The Ohio State University”, Ms. OSU):
The study of the metric structure of poetry led further to a comparison between spoken and sung poetry.
And most recently, she collaborated with colleagues at Tartu University, led by Professor Karl Pajusalu, on a series of monographs on the prosody of several Baltic Finnic languages which are threatened with extinction.
from Sally Thomason, another former President of the LSA, on Language Log:
from Detmar Meurers:
from Ronelle Alexander, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures, UC Berkeley:
Lenore Grenoble, dept. of Slavic languages and literature, U. Chicago:
Michael S. Flier, Professor of Ukranian Philology, Harvard University:
Mary Louise Edwards, Prof. of Communications Sciences and Disorders, Syracuse University
from Peggy Dewan:
Craige Roberts, OSU
Posted by Arnold Zwicky on the Language Log
News from Brian Joseph: our colleague and dear friend Ilse Lehiste, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Ohio State University, died on Christmas Day, of complications from pneumonia.
Ilse's accomplishments were enormous and formidable, in a wide range of areas of scholarship and research — instrumental phonetics, historical linguistics, prosody, poetics, Estonian studies, Serbo-Croatian studies, Germanic philology, for a start. (She was also a polyglot, picking up new languages throughout her life, building on the Estonian, German, and Russian of her young days.) She was duly showered with honors, including the presidency of the Linguistic Society of America.
A more formal death notice is in preparation for the LSA; I'll post it when it's finished. In the meantime, this is the link to her Ohio State homepage, which has a lot of information. (The Ohio State server is down at the moment, unfortunately.) Inexplicably, she has no Wikipedia page.
Now, a few very personal remarks.
Ilse recruited me from Illinois for Ohio State in 1969 and oversaw rapid tenure for me and promotion to full professor. She immediately became close friends with me, my wife (Ann Daingerfield Zwicky), and our daughter (Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky), and later my partner (Jacques Transue). Later, with Elizabeth Traugott at Stanford, she helped to engineer a visiting professorship for me at Stanford, so that I divided my time between the two universities from 1985 through 1998 (when I moved to Stanford full-time). Along the way, Ilse spent time with me and my family almost every week, with some regular events, like Christmas Eve at her house — having a celebratory dinner, exchanging gifts, reading the Christmas story in Latin, and singing carols in English and German. Wonderful times, mixing the social and the academic.
I wish I'd gotten her to assemble a collection of her self-deprecating Estonian jokes (jokes about Estonians, not jokes in Estonian, though I'm sure she could tell them in several languages).
For a charming glimpse of Ilse, here's a YouTube video of her playing the piano in Tartu, Estonia, in 2008.
(Sadly, Brian's news came right on the heels of my posting on my blog about some deaths of 2010.)
7 Comments »
Reiner Wilhelms-Tricarico said,
Thanks to who ever posted the video on youtube of Ilse playing the piano with so much fervour and fun. She was one of a kind and I am glad to have known her during my time at OSU. Such a friendly and funny person she was! The best thing I remember was how much time and effort she spent to help me write a small grant application. At the time I still had a quite lousy command of English; so she took it on to turn my written diatribes into real English. First I got the manuscript back with about as many red ink marks as there were words. After rewriting I got fewer remarks the second time, but still about one red mark per line. The grant proposal was eventually funded on first submission - thanks to her, but the true benefit for me was her amazing skill to detect and understand the origin of all my pitfalls and the 'false friends' I fell for while trying to write and speak English, and then explaining them to me with great generality. Thank you Ilse, you fixed my head! (Sorry, I tried my best, but I bet you would still find here plenty of abuses of English.)
Reiner Wilhelms-Tricarico, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shari Speer said,
I did not know Ilse well personally, having arrived at OSU after she had become emeritus. However, her pioneering work on prosody in language comprehension inspired my initial interest in the area - one that has sustained my academic career to this day. My colleagues Paul Warren, Amy Schafer and I dedicated our most recent publication on prosody (to appear in the new journal, Laboratory Phonology) to Ilse's memory. It is a paper that took years to publish, as some good ones do, and Ilse was fond of the work, intermittently asking me after its progress. We could not have produced it without 'standing on her shoulders.'
Shari Speer (and for Amy Schafer and Paul Warren)
Ilse Lehiste enabled me to have an academic career, and I will always be grateful to her for her instruction and support. I began my graduate studies in Autumn 1967 taking her Phonetics 600, Fillmore's 601, and Old High German with Prof. Fleischhaurer. How I loved it! Fascinating, demanding, fun, rewarding. I continued to take courses with her whenever possible, for all those same reasons. Runic Inscriptions, reading Old Norse, and then more phonetics, especially the seminar on suprasegmentals, offered just after she'd published the book with that title. The paper I wrote for that course on quantity in Icelandic eventually led to my dissertation, "Quantity in Icelandic: Production and Perception." She introduced me to Hreinn Beneditsson at Haaskoli Islands who facilitated my researck in Reykjavik. Getting the dissertation published, getting various appointments at OSU and at other universities nearby (for family reasons I had to stay near Columbus) and eventually getting a tenure-track appointment in English at OSU, for all, I am indebted to Ilse. It was not easy to leave behind my bibliography in phonetics, acoustics, and speech perception as I entered the new disciplines of rhetoric and composition, but Ilse's high standards always motivated and challenged me. I will be eternally grateful that I happened to follow my husband to Columbus and enroll in Linguistics at Ohio State and get to work with such a remarkable scholar and grand adviser.
So now, good-bye, Professor Lehiste. And thank you. Sara Garnes Associate Professor Emeritus Department of English The Ohio State University Columbus, OH 43210
At Interspeech-2002/ICSLP-2002 when Prof. Lehiste received the ISCA Medal for her pioneering work in speech/language/linguistics (courtesy of John H.L. Hansen Department Head & Professor, Dept. of Electrical Engineering & Professor, School of Behavior and Brain Sciences (Speech and Hearing) Center for Robust Speech Systems, The University of Texas at Dallas)
How sad to know that Ilse has left us all.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ilse at OSU and in conferences, and learned a great deal from her. The last time was 2004 where we attended both Speech Prosody at Nara and later traveled together to the first TAL (Tonal Aspects of Languages) at Beijing. She told me in the US "you are what you do", and that's why she only retired from her job, but never from her work. In that sense, I know Else has had a more fulfilling life than most people.
Chiu-yu Tseng, Ph.D.
Institute of Linguistics
Hiroya Fujisaki, Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo
I am in a deep grief to learn of the passing of Ilse Lehiste, one of my closest and most respected friends of almost 40 years. Although we knew each other earlier through our publications, it was in 1972 at a conference in speech communication in Boston that we first exchanged words. Since then, I had the luck of having numerous occasions to learn from her. For instance, we both attended and exchanged our views at every ICPhS since the one in Leeds in 1975 until the most recent one in Saarbrücken in 2007. The followings are some of the highlights of our scholarly friendship.
At the ICPhS ’79 in Copenhagen, I was invited to take part in a semi-plenary symposium organized by Ilse, and at the end of the congress we were both elected to serve in the Permanent Council for the Organization of ICPhSs. In 1980 I had the pleasure of inviting her to Japan and host her stay, together with Masayuki Sawashima, for almost two months as Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo under the auspices of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. It was a time of invaluable cooperation and pleasant personal exchanges with my family. During the summer of 1981 we also had a fruitful and enjoyable stay in Williamstown, Mass. for the SCAMP workshop organized by Arthur House, and in 1982 I had another chance of inviting her to Tokyo for a workshop (Working Group in Intonation), organized by myself together with the late Eva Gårding). At ICPhS ’83 in Utrecht, Ilse kindly chaired my two plenary talks – one by myself, and another I gave on behalf of Ludmilla Chitovich who was not allowed to come. In 1994, Ilse gave a memorable keynote at the ICLP’94 held in Yokohama for which I served as honorary chair, and also was an invited speaker at the International Symposium on Prosody organized by myself as its satellite event. In 2004, we invited Ilse to give a keynote at the Speech Prosody Conference in Nara and at the TAL (Tonal Aspects of Languages) symposium held in Beijing to celebrate the 95th birthday of our common friend, the late Professor Zong-ji Wu at the Institute of Linguistics, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
At all these occasions and many others, I learned invaluable and unforgettable lessons from Ilse. Although Ilse is no more with us on earth, she will be long remembered by all her friends, colleagues and students. Let me conclude this personal note with a poem in Edda, translated into German, which Ilse taught me when we met in Saarbrücken during the summer of 2007.
Du selbst stirbst wie sie.
das ewig lebt:
der Toten Tatenruhm.
Professor Emeritus, the University of Tokyo
Former member, the Permanent Council for the Organization of ICPhSs
Linda Shockey (PhD 1973)
It is noticeable that virtually everyone who writes in tribute to Ilse mentions the effect she had on them personally as well as intellectually: you wanted to engage with her ideas and learn from her, but you also wanted to be in her circle of friends. While her work in linguistics was her mainstay, she had a great capacity for warmth and enjoyment. She was always busy, but she also always had time to listen and give sound advice. That said, the advice wasn't always what you wanted to hear: she had exacting standards and did not refrain from applying them when she felt it necessary. It is unsurprising that she is known for the aphorism "A phonologist ignores phonetics at his own peril".
I join the others on these pages in emphasising her enormous influence on my career. She recognised my interest in phonetics, encouraged it, and shaped its development while at the same time allowing me to grow in my own way. She also taught me by example that that hard work and self discipline are their own rewards. I failed to emulate her in this, but it was helpful to aspire to it.
In the 1960s and 70s, there weren't that many women who demonstrated that you could be dynamic, scholarly, successful, and human at the same time. Ilse Lehiste was a model to me and to many others. We are academics thanks to her, and we will miss her.
Ilse was a wonderful friend of our family. When my wife and I decided to move to Estonia, Ilse was kind enough to take me on as a student. In seven weeks, she taught me where the Estonian language came from, the science of the language, regaled me with jokes and taught me the Estonian National Anthem.
Whenever she came to Estonia, she always found time to spend a day with us. We have many lovely memories of showing her parts of Estonia which she had never seen before.
My children will always remember her kindness, humor, and the longest Estonian word "kirjanduslikkustatamatusegagi".
Ilse was a good cook, gracious hostess, and one could always get "black" bread at her house.
I will always remember Ilse as a great scholar and friend. I first knew her when I came to the Ohio State for my Ph.D. and then we kept on meeting at various conferences in different parts of the world. Once I was invited to her place with Joel Nevis and Ilse had prepared us an enormous, but delicious meal and that was the first time I got to taste of walnut liquor! I studied phonetics and Finnish with her and it was of course wonderful to work with
someone who had done some of the foundational work in the field.
Ilse took the trouble to respond in great detail to my data on children's consonant durations when I was a PhD student. She didn't know me, and had no reason to help me other than the goodness of her heart. Like Linda Shockey, I can't say I was happy about everything she said about my work, but I was overwhelmed that she gave it any attention at all, and her comments were of course very valuable. That was almost 40 years ago. Since then, we greeted each other ever more warmly whenever we met at conferences, and I began to appreciate her complex, passionate personality and personal history as well as her pioneering intellectual accomplishments. That current students still refer to her early work on duration is a great tribute to her academic contribution. That I always remember Ilse whenever I take a break from working in my study to play a few minutes on the piano, is a tribute to her sparklingly humourous manner. For that's what she told me - with a huge smile - that she did to get through all those interminable measurements: "...and then when I can't bear it any longer, I run downstairs and play the piano."
Ilse was one of the organizers of a workship dealing with the prosody of languages surrounding the Baltic Sea, held at Tartu University in the fall of 2008. Ilse was also one of the lead speakers. She was delighted to bring her scholarship back to Tartu. I'm attaching a picture of Ilse while she was speaking at the workshop and of the building at Tartu where the linguistics department is located. I think Ilse's picture shows how delighted she was with the event. i thought these pictures might be appropriate for Ilse's memorial page.
Picture was taken in 1985; Ilse is standing outside her office in Cunz Hall
(from Columbus Dispatch)
I had the honor of being Ilse Lehiste's friend for many years. I knew about her work before I worked at MIT around 1960. While I was at Bell Labs, probably around 1980, I visited her home in Upper Arlington with Mark Liberman and Janet Pierrehumbert, my colleagues at that time. Ilse cooked a nice dinner for us and played her grand piano.
After I moved from Bell to Ohio State, I had many occasions to talk with her. She even participated regularly in my seminar at the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. After I retired from OSU several years ago and worked mostly in Japan, we still maintained our friendship. When I visited Columbus earlier this year, she invited me to a restaurant in Upper Arlington and we had a very pleasant time together..
Before I attended the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Tallinn, I wanted to have a little exposure to Estonian. Ilse was very pleased by my interest in her native language and encouraged me by giving me a small textbook, which I read carefully and worked through all the exercises. I learned a lot about language through this experience and was very grateful for Ilse's support. While I never was her student and, in fact, never took any formal courses in linguistics, I think she greatly influenced my understanding of the nature of language.
She was always polite and gentle. I will never forget the kindness she showed me.
DSc. Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
(from Columbus Dispatch)
With great respect and appreciation I remember Ilse from her association with the Finno-Ugric Studies Association of Canada. She will be greatly missed.