[Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Denise BERNOT (1922 - 2016)

Alice Vittrant 2 alice.vittrant at univ-amu.fr
Wed May 18 22:11:03 UTC 2016

Denise Bernot left us on Thursday 12 May 2016 in Antony (France). She was 94.

Denise founded the Burmese chair at “Langues’ O” (INALCO Paris) in the early sixties, where she taught Burmese language and civilisation until 1990. As an archivist trained at the Ecole des Chartes, she began her CNRS career by making an inventory of works linked to Burma in the libraries of Paris. From her first stay with the Marmas in the Chittagong Hill Tracks along with her husband Lucien Bernot (Ethnologist at the Collège de France), she never lost her taste for fieldwork, for working through immersion. This at a time when we still spoke of East Pakistan…

In addition to her PhD thesis on “The Predicate in spoken Burmese” published in 1985, Denise Bernot wrote numerous articles on the phonology of Burmese as well as closely related dialects such as Marma, Arakanese, Tavoyan, Intha or Maru – a long term comparative project conducted in parallel with her translation work!

She was also a specialist in literature interested in Burmese poetry and published various translations of contemporary short stories. However, in Burma and in the small world of Burmese scholars, Denise Bernot is best known for her extraordinary bilingual (Burmese-French) dictionary spanning fifteen volumes – a treasure of botanical terminology sprinkled with her outstanding sketches.

A true scholar, she possessed an exceptional library that many among us have visited. From her numerous trips to Burma, she had brought back large numbers of books, for herself but also for the Langues’ O library, thereby saving them from both certain censorship and the passing of time. 

Denise was unquestionably a linguist. However, she was also a translator, an ethnologist and an anthropologist, as interested in language as in knowledge and savoir-faire. Thanks to this pluridisciplinarity, she – with her husband – was able to create a real community of researchers, of birmanologists, in France. To her, we are all both indebted and forever grateful. Above all else, she was a lady of sharing and transmission.

Département Sciences Du Langage
Université d'Aix-Marseille - UFR ALLSHS- Pôle LLC
29 av. Robert Schuman - 13621 Aix-en-Provence cedex 1 – France

Mail : alice.vittrant at univ-amu.fr / alice.vittrant at cnrs.fr

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