[Lingtyp] Frank Lichtenberk (1945-2015)

Jae Song jaejung.song at otago.ac.nz
Wed May 13 23:08:01 UTC 2015

Frank Lichtenberk (1945-2015)

Dr Frank Lichtenberk, Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Auckland, passed away tragically on Wednesday, 29th  April 2015.

After completing his PhD on the Manam language (spoken in Papua New Guinea) at the University of Hawai’i under the guidance of Andrew Pawley and George Grace, Frank joined the University of Auckland in 1980. Through an academic career of more than thirty years, he made a great contribution mainly to the study of Oceanic languages and linguistics. Of his extensive work on Oceanic languages and linguistics, his most conspicuous monuments are two remarkable descriptive grammars: a 634–page grammar of Manam (University of Hawai’i Press, 1983) and a 1300-page grammar of To’aba’ita (spoken on the Solomon Islands) (Walter de Gruyter 2008), and a 395-page accompanying dictionary of Ta’aba’ita (Oceanic Linguistics, 2008), based on two decades of fieldwork. Each represents the most comprehensive grammar of any Oceanic language to date. During the same period, he produced a steady stream of meticulously researched, rigorously argued and beautifully presented original articles in linguistic typology including grammaticalisation, covering a wide-ranging topics such as reciprocal constructions, reflexive constructions, possessive constructions, interrogatives, tense, aspect and modality. In addition he also made important contributions to Oceanic comparative-historical linguistics, in both the lexical and phonological domains, and as an extension of this comparative-historical work, he reconstructed aspects of the culture and society of speakers of Proto Oceanic utilising linguistic evidence.

Frank was not only an outstanding and highly-respected scholar, but also an inspiring teacher and a dedicated supervisor for his students. In addition, his contribution to the development of linguistics at the University of Auckland was significant.  When the Institute of Language Teaching and Learning and the Institute of Linguistics were amalgamated into the Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics, Frank was enormously supportive and worked hard to ensure that  the new department proceeded smoothly.  His open-mindedness and ability to work with everyone was greatly appreciated.

Frank was a compassionate but very private person. He was incredibly self-effacing and even shy. With his passing, we have lost not only a great scholar but a cherished colleague and a wonderful person as well. He will be greatly missed by his friends, colleagues and students.

Yan Huang, Professor of Linguistics, University of Auckland, on behalf of all staff in linguistics and applied language studies at the University of Auckland

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