From: Josep Quer <josep.querub.edu>
Subject: Obituary: Prof. Ben Tervoort (1920 - 2006), U. van Amsterdam
With sadness we must report the death of Professor Ben Tervoort, emeritus
professor of Linguistics at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, The
Netherlands. Ben (29 May 1920 - 17 August 2006) was well known in the field
of sign linguistics for his pioneering work on signing in deaf children. As
early as 1953 he was awarded his Ph.D. at the Universiteit van Amsterdam
for his study of signed communication in a group of deaf children,
published in English in 1961 under the title Esoteric Symbolism in the
Communication Behavior of Young Deaf Children. Thereby he laid the basis
for the study of signed languages both in the Netherlands and
internationally. He also did research in the USA and was awarded an
honorary doctorate by Gallaudet University in 1964. He was appointed
professor of linguistics at the Universiteit van Amsterdam in 1966, with
special responsibility for psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. Ben was
an inspiring teacher – he loved to tell stories – and he stimulated his
students in their research on sign languages. Ben was one of the initiators
of the research that led to the first dictionary of NGT (Sign Language of
The Netherlands) in the early eighties and stimulated the organization of
an international conference in Noordwijk in 1985.
Although Ben retired in 1987, he remained involved with and committed to
deaf issues for the rest of his life. He was given a special award for his
services to the field of sign linguistics at TISLR 7 in 2000.
Ben started his academic career from within the Jesuit order. He left the
order in 1965 to marry and form a family. His work was characterized by an
insistence on the importance of inter-personal communication, which he saw
as essential for good human relations. The sign linguistics field now
misses one of its pioneers. We extend our condolences to his wife,
Dieuwertje, and his three daughters.
(1975) Developmental features of visual communication: a psycholinguistic
analysis of deaf children's growth in communicative competence. American
Elsevier, New York.
(1986) Signs of Life – Proceedings of the Second European Conference on
Sign Language Research. Publications of the General Linguistics Department,
Universiteit van Amsterdam, No.50.
The Sign Language Linguistics Society board, August 23, 2006
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