William J. Gedney

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This article is about the linguist named William J. Gedney. For the American photographer, see William Gedney.

William J. Gedney (born April 4, 1915 in Orchards, Washington; died November 14, 1999 in Ann Arbor, Michigan) was an American linguist and Southeast Asian language specialist. Gedney did extensive work Tai historical linguistics.

Life[edit]

In 1935, Gedney graduated summa cum laude from Whitman College. Upon graduation, Gedney worked as an English teacher in Oregon and Washington. During the summers, he occupied himself seriously with linguistics, but at the outbreak of the Second World War, moved in with the Army Language Unit in New York City, where he began to work with the Thai language. He was involved with Sanskrit studies at Yale University.

In 1947, Gedney obtained his doctorate and moved to Thailand, where he studied Thai language and literature, working with some of the most important scholars of the country. At the same time he began collecting Thai literature, building a 14,000 volume collection. He gave this small library in 1975 to the University of Michigan. In the following two decades Gedney worked on the Tai–Kadai languages, seeing through numerous projects to the end. He sought in particular many in the less spoken languages of this family in Southeast Asia and southern China in order to capture the characteristics of these languages. He was known for the accuracy of his notes on the tonal and phonological characteristics of these languages, and developed important word lists and representations for the study and comparisons of their tone.

All in all Gedney worked on over 22 languages, including Saek, Lue, and Yay, often creating the first dictionaries of those languages. His findings have been published in an eight-volume series with the Center for South and South East Asian Studies at the University of Michigan, edited by Thomas John Hudak, one of Gedney's students.

Gedney retired in 1980 the faculty of the University of Michigan from after 1972-1975 as Dean of the Faculty of Linguistics had worked. Throughout his career, Gedney was in the Linguistic Society of America, the American Oriental Society, the Siam Society, the Association for Asian Studies and Southeast Asian Linguistic Society. In 1981, he served as vice president of the American Oriental Society, serving in 1982 as its president.

By focusing on data and his extensive knowledge of the Tai–Kadai languages, Gedney established himself as a leader in the comparative-historical study of Tai languages and dialects. But his influence went far beyond linguistics. Researchers from other disciplines including history, political science, art history and anthropology sought his advice.

William J. Gedney died on 14 November 1999 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Published works[edit]

  • Gedney, William J. On the Thai Evidence for Austro-Thai. [S.l: s.n, 1976.
  • Gedney, William J., and Robert J. Bickner. Selected Papers on Comparative Tai Studies. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 29. Ann Arbor, Mich., USA: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1989. ISBN 0-89148-037-4
  • Gedney, William J., Carol J. Compton, and John F. Hartmann. Papers on Tai Languages, Linguistics, and Literatures: In Honor of William J. Gedney on His 77th Birthday. Monograph series on Southeast Asia. [De Kalb]: Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1992. ISBN 1-877979-16-3
  • Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. (1995). William J. Gedney's central Tai dialects: glossaries, texts, and translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 43. Ann Arbor, Mich: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan ISBN 0-89148-075-7
  • Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. William J. Gedney's the Yay Language: Glossary, Texts, and Translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 38. Ann Arbor, Mich: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1991. ISBN 0-89148-066-8
  • Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. William J. Gedney's Southwestern Tai Dialects: Glossaries, Texts and Translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 42. [Ann Arbor, Mich.]: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1994. ISBN 0-89148-074-9

Students[edit]

Gedney advised many dissertations in Tai linguistics, and made his extensive field notes available to his students. He continued to serve on dissertation committees after his retirement in 1980. A selection of Gedney's notable students and their dissertations is as follows:

  • 1966. Gething, Thomas. Dissertation: Some aspects of semantic structure in Standard Thai.
  • 1970. Scovel, Thomas. Dissertation: A grammar of time in Thai.
  • 1973. Oshika, Beatrice. Dissertation: The relationship of Kam-Sui-Mak to Tai.
  • 1973. Sarawit, Mary. Dissertation: The Proto-Tai vowel system.
  • 1974. Beebe, Leslie. Dissertation: Socially conditioned variation in Bangkok Thai
  • 1976. Hartmann, John. Dissertation: The linguistic and memory structure of Tai-Lue oral narrative.
  • 1977. Chamberlain, James. Dissertation: An introduction to Proto-Tai zoology.
  • 1978. Grima, John. Dissertation: Categories of zero nominal reference and clausal structure in Thai.
  • 1981. Bickner, Robert. Dissertation: A linguistic study of a Thai literary classic.
  • 1981. Hudak, Thomas. Dissertation: The indigenization of Pali meter in Thai poetry.
  • 1981. Peyasantiwong, Patcharin. Dissertation: A Study of Final Particles in Conversational Thai.
  • 1984. Strecker, David. Dissertation: Proto-Tai personal pronouns.

References[edit]

  • Compton, Carol J. and John F. Hartmann (eds.). 1992. Papers on Tai languages, linguistics, and literatures: in honor of William J. Gedney on his 77th birthday. Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies.