[Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Video interview/oral history with James A. Matisoff

Randy LaPolla randy.lapolla at gmail.com
Sun Jul 22 12:27:45 UTC 2018

Hi All,
The next in our series of video oral histories of senior linguists on the YouTube channel “Linguistics Videos” is of James A. Matisoff, Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley, and a major figure in the development of Sino-Tibetan studies.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Playlist with all three videos:


Other sets we have on the same channel currently are of Jeffrey Heath and Geoffrey Benjamin. Here is the link for the channel as a whole: 
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClCOag0Y5va45AedwsB6xng (scroll to the side to see all the videos available). We hope to have at least three more soon!

I should explain that I was inspired to do these video interviews/oral histories of senior people in the field by similar ones done by anthropologists (e.g. Marry Haas: Mary Haas interview - YouTube) and a great series from the 1970’s in philosophy (e.g. one of two with John Searle: https://youtu.be/jOlJZabio3g). There is also this interview with Jack Goody: https://youtu.be/ITRrAbns5D0 .
I am a big fan of personal histories as a way of understanding the history of the field as well as understanding what motivates people to do what they did, and think the way they did, or the circumstances that led to them doing what they did. I teach a course on the development of linguistics since the early 19th century, and go into the individuals and why they did what they did, and why they morphed into different schools (e.g. Romanticists morphing into Neogrammarians, Neogrammarians morphing into Structuralists, etc.). It was of course very different in the past, when there were no computers and no shortcuts, so research was time-consuming, but the scholars got a very good understanding of their data as a totality rather than just doing some concordances of a database and seeing only bits of the data. So I have tremendous respect for the earlier generation of scholars, and hope to make their legacy more available.

Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
Professor of Linguistics and Chinese, School of Humanities 
Nanyang Technological University
HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
Most recent book:

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