Darrell Tryon

Mary Laughren mary.laughren at BIGPOND.COM
Thu May 16 08:15:35 UTC 2013

Dear Malcolm

Thank you for letting us know of the very sad news of Darrell's death  
yesterday. My sincere  condolences  to all of his family, friends and  

Could I add that Darrell also documented languages of  northern  
Australia especially those spoken in the Daly River area. He also  
contributed to the establishment of the bilingual education programs  
in the NT as a member of the Government's advisory committee on  
bilingual education set up to oversee the introduction of this program  
in the 1970s and he was also very much involved in the setting up of  
the School of Australian languages in Darwin, and post cyclone 1974,  
in Batchelor. In fact it was very much thanks to Darrell that I was  
appointed as research officer (linguist) to support the incipient  
Warlpiri language program at Yuendumu in 1975, as I was recruited with  
no specific field location in mind at the same time as the committee  
was due to meet in Darwin. Darrell had visited Yuendumu on his way to  
this meeting and reported that the people had forcefully told him that  
they needed a linguist. So I shall always be extremely grateful to  
Darrell for setting me on such a wonderfully fulfilling adventure. I  
know that the committee and hence the program gained a lot from his  
interest, wise counsel and support.

Mary Laughren

On 16/05/2013, at 2:36 PM, Malcolm Ross wrote:

> Emeritus Professor Darrell Tryon, longtime researcher into the  
> languages of Vanuatu, the Solomons and the Loyalty Islands, died in  
> Canberra on Wednesday 15th May at the age of 70. Darrell had been  
> battling melanoma for some months, but the suddenness of his passing  
> comes as a considerable shock to his colleagues at the Australian  
> National University and elsewhere.
> Darrell was born and grew up in New Zealand, where he completed his  
> Bachelor's degree at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. He  
> studied French, became a fluent speaker, and an abiding interest in  
> French South Pacific affairs was one of the continuing threads of  
> his career.
> Darrell is known among Oceanic linguists particularly for his  
> association with the nation of Vanuatu and for his research into its  
> languages. In fieldwork started in 1969 he collected extensive  
> wordlists from communities throughout Vanuatu and worked out the  
> first set of hypotheses about relationships among the country's  
> languages, presenting these first at the First International  
> Conference on Austronesian Linguistics in Honolulu in 1974, then  
> publishing both the wordlists and his findings in a compendious  
> Pacific Linguistics volume (C-50). The 292-item wordlists from 179  
> communities, the vast majority collected by Darrell himself, remain  
> a major source of Vanuatu lexical data.
> In 1983 Darrell published a similar volume for the languages of the  
> Solomon Islands, based on wordlists collected by himself and Brian  
> Hackman. Most of his ongoing linguistic research, however, concerned  
> Vanuatu, and he published numerous papers on Vanuatu-related  
> linguistic topics.
> Darrell's magnum opus, the result of several years of work, was the  
> *Comparative Austronesian Dictionary*, an edited five-volume work  
> published by Mouton de Gruyter in 1995, that contained annotated  
> wordlists for 1310 meanings organized by semantic domains in 80  
> Austronesian languages, 40 of them Oceanic. Each list was compiled  
> by a specialist in the language, who also provided a short  
> introduction to the language, and the work as a whole was introduced  
> by articles written by Darrell.
> For more than 20 years, from the early 1980s, Darrell was also  
> heavily involved in the Vanuatu Fieldworker Programme, which once a  
> year brought together at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre men who were  
> interested in recording the traditions of their communities.  
> Eventually these fieldworkers, most of whom had limited formal  
> education and worked together using Bislama, the lingua franca of  
> Vanuatu, numbered fifty or so. All were resident in their home  
> villages, and each annual meeting focussed on a single cultural  
> topic. The materials collected in this way were archived at the  
> Cultural Centre in Port Vila. Until around 2009 these annual  
> meetings were conducted under Darrell's leadership.
> Alongside his linguistic activities Darrell had an abiding interest  
> in history, and the book *Pacific Pidgins and Creoles*, co-authored  
> with Jean-Michel Charpentier (2004), combined these two interests in  
> an insightful way, turning some of his colleagues' assumptions about  
> the history of Pacific pidgins upside down.
> In the decade or so before his retirement in 2007 Darrell was  
> heavily involved in university administration and for part of this  
> time was the Deputy Director of the Research School of Pacific and  
> Asian Studies at the Australian National University. His involvement  
> in the wider work of the school strengthened his interests in the  
> governance and sociology of the countries of the South Pacific, and  
> many of his more recent publications have been in this area. He was  
> variously a Constitutional Adviser to Vanuatu Government and a  
> member of the Council of the University of New Caledonia. In 2004 he  
> was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government, in  
> recognition of his contributions to French language and culture,  
> especially in the Pacific, and for his work in fostering bilateral  
> relations between Australia and France.
> Darrell will be greatly missed by colleagues and students at the ANU  
> and by his many friends in Vanuatu, France and elsewhere.
> --Malcolm Ross
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Mary Laughren
Mob. 0417004970
Landline Darwin: 08 89311082
Landline Brisbane: 07 33426618

32 Harrison Circuit
Woodroffe NT 0830

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