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LINGUIST List 20.719

Fri Mar 06 2009

All: Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda

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        1.    Grant Goodall, Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda

Message 1: Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda
Date: 05-Mar-2009
From: Grant Goodall <goodallling.ucsd.edu>
Subject: Obituary: S.-Y. Kuroda
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Sige-Yuki Kuroda, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor of Linguistics
at UCSD, died in La Jolla, California, on February 25, 2009, after a long
illness. Known almost universally as Yuki, Kuroda was the father of modern
Japanese linguistics. His 1965 MIT dissertation, Generative Studies in the
Japanese Language, written under the direction of Noam Chomsky, provided
the seeds of theoretical studies of Japanese that continue to have an
impact today. His work showed that not only could Japanese be fruitfully
analyzed using the theory of generative grammar, but that it could play an
important role in extending and expanding that theory.

Kuroda’s work on Japanese was motivated not by a parochial impulse to study
his native language, but rather by a desire to use Japanese to illuminate
the universality of human language. His work thus had an impact far beyond
the realm of Japanese linguistics. As the Belgian linguist Nicolas Ruwet
put it in his introduction to the French translation of Kuroda’s book The
(W)hole of the Doughnut, “in studying Japanese, Kuroda is really focusing
on all of us.”

Kuroda’s linguistic work covered an exceptionally wide range, from
phonology, syntax, and semantics, through pragmatics, stylistics, and
poetics, to philosophy of language and mathematical linguistics. Just
before his death, he was working simultaneously on Russian phonology and
prosodic issues in the translation of Shakespeare’s sonnets into Japanese,
and was revisiting some of his earliest work on mathematics.

Kuroda was born in 1934 into a prominent academic family. His grandfather,
Teiji Takagi, had studied with the German mathematician David Hilbert, was
a professor at Tokyo University and a member of the Japanese Academy. His
father, Sigekatu Kuroda, was also a mathematician, as are two of his

Sige-Yuki Kuroda received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and linguistics
from the University of Tokyo, and a master’s degree in mathematics from
Nagoya University. He then entered the linguistics department at MIT in
1962 and was a member of the first graduating class, receiving his
linguistics Ph.D. in 1965. He was one of the first members of the
linguistics faculty at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD),
teaching from 1966 until his retirement in 1994. He then accepted a
position as Professor of Linguistics at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan
in 1995 and retired from there in 1998. In addition, he held visiting
positions at universities in Japan, France, Spain, and the Netherlands; he
was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences
in Palo Alto and the International Institute of Advanced Studies in Kyoto.
He was also honored as a Guggenheim Fellow and as a Fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kuroda is survived by his wife, Susan Fischer, and by three brothers and
other family members in Japan. He also leaves hundreds of friends,
colleagues, and former students who admired him for his deep intellect and
loved him for his gentle kindness. Those wishing to honor his memory may
make a contribution to the Japanese American National Museum in Los
Angeles, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, or to any progressive cause
of the donor’s choice.

A page paying tribute to Yuki Kuroda has been set up at

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable

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