Vaarwel, adieu, farvel, addio, farewell Michael

It was very sad to learn* of the death of the linguist Michael Clyne. He will be remembered for his original work on the immigrant languages of Australia, on sociolinguistics (pragmatics, language contact and quantitative work on census data), and on bilingualism.
But most of all, many of us will miss his great generosity and his passion for helping speakers of all languages use the languages of their choice. Two strongly-held beliefs which he fought hard to get his colleagues, Governments and people to share were:
1. the importance of language rights: the right to learn a language and the right to learn through a language
2. the dangers of the monolingual mindset which, through ignorance, both discriminates against speakers of other languages, and destroys the social, cultural and economic resources that multilingualism affords a country.
Letters, speeches, opinion pieces and articles flowed from him in support of these causes (e.g. 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010). Good that his efforts were recognised – he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.
Another cause was the need to bridge the divide between applied linguistics and general linguistics, a divide that he strongly believed was unnecessary and counter-productive. Bridging it in himself, he was a member of both the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and of the Australian Academy of Humanities. Until illness slowed him down, he faithfully attended annual meetings of both the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia and the Australian Linguistics Society. And he devised a delightful way of bringing them together – by establishing a prize administered by both societies – for the best postgraduate research thesis on some aspect of immigrant bilingualism and language contact.
What a man. Vaarwel, adieu, farvel, addio, farewell.

*via Facebook – bad news comes now so quickly.

6 thoughts on “Vaarwel, adieu, farvel, addio, farewell Michael”

  1. Jane — this is a brilliant post that captures Michael’s rôle in supporting small languages and challenging monolingual ideologies and structures that support them. He was also a wonderful colleague and tireless mentor and supporter of students, as we saw at Melbourne University and at Monash.
    He was also of course internationally recognised, being a Foreign Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science, and an awardee of the Austrian Cross of Honour,and the German Cross of Merit. He is also probably the only Australian with a Wikipedia page in Bavarian.

  2. In early 1994 I submitted my PhD thesis proposal for admission to Monash Faculty of Arts. My proposal was on the Vietnamese literature. At that time I didn’t know in which department the proposal would end up and was considered. One morning Michael Clyne phoned me. He introduced himself and gave me a very brief on code-switching topic. He gave me an appointment with him to ‘further discuss’ the topic. He convinced me to change my research topic into language contacts through counsel and friendship. That was how I became Michael’s student. We met fortnightly since then until he agreed for me to submit my thesis in late 1996.
    I learned a lot from the way he commented (orally and written) on my writing. He put questions such as ‘why do you put these words into quotation marks’, ‘why italics’, or ‘this is not academic writing, it’s a phrase often used in short stories’. His humble teaching style is with me whenever I am with my students.
    I recall at an evening reception at Monash for him to receive the Austrian Cross of Honour, the then Monash VC called him ‘a lion’.
    We all lost our much loved lion.
    But the lion will never truly be gone. His passion for a tolerant and multilingual society still echoes.

  3. May I add a contribution by Michael that many may not be aware of, but which should be remembered at this sad time as a further example of his personal generosity, and his commitment to ensuring respect for, and the maintenance of, immigrant languages in Australia. In about 1997 the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Cttee (and subsequently the Victorian Macedonian Teachers’ Association) brought a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission about the Victorian Government’s identification of the Macedonian language as “Macedonian (Slavonic)”. I acted for these groups in the Commission. Michael was an expert witness for us. The case was heard in the Commission before Sir Ronald Wilson, where we lost, we appealed to Weinberg J in the Federal Court, and won, the Victorian Government then took the case to the Full Federal Court and they lost, the Victorian Government then applied for special leave to the High Court and lost and then on remitter to the Commission we eventually won – in 2000. Not only was Michael a superb expert witness, but he was a great support to my clients and their belief in the unfair treatment their language was receiving for what seemed to be political purposes at the hands of the then Victorian Government.

  4. The Lingua Franca programme of ABC Radio has just rebroadcast an interview with Michael first recorded in 2008 in which he talks about his life and work. It is available as a podcast and download.

Here at Endangered Languages and Cultures, we fully welcome your opinion, questions and comments on any post, and all posts will have an active comments form. However if you have never commented before, your comment may take some time before it is approved. Subsequent comments from you should appear immediately.

We will not edit any comments unless asked to, or unless there have been html coding errors, broken links, or formatting errors. We still reserve the right to censor any comment that the administrators deem to be unnecessarily derogatory or offensive, libellous or unhelpful, and we have an active spam filter that may reject your comment if it contains too many links or otherwise fits the description of spam. If this happens erroneously, email the author of the post and let them know. And note that given the huge amount of spam that all WordPress blogs receive on a daily basis (hundreds) it is not possible to sift through them all and find the ham.

In addition to the above, we ask that you please observe the Gricean maxims:

*Be relevant: That is, stay reasonably on topic.

*Be truthful: This goes without saying; don’t give us any nonsense.

*Be concise: Say as much as you need to without being unnecessarily long-winded.

*Be perspicuous: This last one needs no explanation.

We permit comments and trackbacks on our articles. Anyone may comment. Comments are subject to moderation, filtering, spell checking, editing, and removal without cause or justification.

All comments are reviewed by comment spamming software and by the site administrators and may be removed without cause at any time. All information provided is volunteered by you. Any website address provided in the URL will be linked to from your name, if you wish to include such information. We do not collect and save information provided when commenting such as email address and will not use this information except where indicated. This site and its representatives will not be held responsible for errors in any comment submissions.

Again, we repeat: We reserve all rights of refusal and deletion of any and all comments and trackbacks.

Leave a Comment