Obituary: Michael Noonan

Carol Genetti cgenetti at LINGUISTICS.UCSB.EDU
Thu Feb 26 19:57:07 UTC 2009

It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected death of Dr. Michael
Noonan, Professor in the Department of English at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at his home on February 23rd, apparently of a brain
aneurysm. Mickey (as he was fondly known) was a well-known contributor to
functional and typological linguistics. Following publication of his Grammar
of Lango, Mickey wrote extensively on the languages of Nepal and published
numerous articles, grammars, dictionaries, and text-collections. He also
worked for some time on Salish and on Irish, his heritage language. 

In addition to his invaluable grammatical studies of previously undescribed
languages, Mickey was a frequent contributor to the literature on syntactic
typology, with notable co-edited collections on word order, voice, and
formalism and functionalism, as well as articles on complementation (his
paper in the Shopen volume has become part of the essential canon on this
topic), converbal constructions, subjectless clauses, nominalization, and
many other topics. 

Mickey was an editor, with Bernard Comrie of Studies in Language. He was
also the founding editor of Himalayan Linguistics; it was his vision to
produce a web-based journal which is free and accessible to all, with a
separate "Archive" section devoted to the publication of grammars,
dictionaries, and texts. He was also the editor of the John Benjamins’
Series Typological Studies in Language and with Werner Abraham, of the
Studies in Language Companion Series. 

Mickey was strongly devoted to the communities with which he worked. He
played for them an important role of teacher, sponsor, mentor, and friend.
He had a deep interest in language preservation and worked with members of
the communities to increase the awareness of the importance of their
languages as well as to provide practical support of language maintenance
efforts. Notable among his publication is a book of children’s stories, the
first work ever produced in the Chantyal language, distributed free to
schools in three Chantyal speaking villages and to interested members of the
ethnic organization of the Chantyal people.

Mickey was the supervisor of numerous doctoral students and was a devoted
mentor to many other young and developing scholars. His contributions to
their work were invaluable and he ceaselessly promoted the highest academic
quality in the work of his students and others.

Mickey had a truly encyclopedic mind: he had a very wide range of knowledge
in various areas such as history, economics, and biology, which he readily
and joyfully shared with people on social occasions. He was also a great
connoisseur of food and wine and took great pleasure in his garden and in
his table – both were rich and abundant! (The last wine he recommended to me
was a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio from the Trentino in Italy, so if you
come across this, have a glass and think of him!)

Mickey will be remembered for his deep linguistic analyses, his lasting
descriptive works, his constructive and insightful criticism, and his
leadership in Himalayan linguistics and beyond. He will be greatly missed.

The family requests that those wishing to make a contribution in his name
contact the Endangered Languages Fund  
( People making contributions should
write on their checks: "In memory of Michael Noonan".

Carol Genetti

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