Eunice Pike and Eugene Nida Remembered

<p>1936 Summer Institute of Linguistics (from back, left to right): Joe Chicol, Eugene Nida, Kenneth Pike, Walter Miller, Robert Smallwood, Jake Johnson, Eunice Pike, Ethel May Squire, Elvira Townsend, Cameron Townsend, Mr. and Mrs. John Twentyman, Grace Armstrong, Florence Hansen (Not pictured: Joe McCullough, Roland Davies, Landis Christansen, Wilfred Morris)</p>

(September 2011) SIL celebrates the legacy of Eunice Pike and Eugene Nida, both of whom recently passed away. Both Pike and Nida participated in the third session of SIL courses in 1936 and went on to make major contributions to language development, linguistics and translation scholarship.

Eunice Pike, Linguist and Translator

Born 6 November 1913 in East Woodstock, Connecticut, Eunice V. Pike was the youngest of eight children born to Hattie May Granniss and Ernest R. Pike, a country doctor. After graduating from Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing in 1936, she entered the training program of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL). Eunice’s brother, noted linguist and scholar Kenneth L. Pike, PhD, had begun linguistic fieldwork in Mexico the previous year. Eunice followed in his footsteps, beginning her own work with language communities in another part of Oaxaca state. Though separated in the early years of their work by a journey involving a three or four day walk, Eunice and Ken sometimes collaborated on projects.

Pike photos: Pike family (left), Eunice and friends (right)

Above: The eight Pike children with Eunice and Ken at the far left; Mexico, 1938: Hansen (far left) and Pike (far right) with Mazatec friends

"Watching [Eunice] analyze the sound patterns and hearing her talk about the system’s impact on grammatical structures gave us the practical experience we needed that later helped us teach others."

-Judith Pike Schram

Eunice Pike enjoyed a long and distinguished career. She and her co-worker Florence Hansen (a Phi Beta Kappa language major from UCLA), were the first single women to serve with SIL. With Eunice’s background in nursing and Florence’s knowledge of languages, they were considered an ideal team. They took up residence in a Mazatec town in October of 1936 to begin language development work. Eunice would live there off and on until 1979, joined by a number of other co-workers following Florence’s marriage to colleague George Cowan in the 1940s.

In addition to her linguistic work among the Mazatec, Eunice traveled all over the world as an SIL consultant, helping colleagues with challenges they encountered in their linguistic research. She specialized in analyzing sound systems and developing alphabets until her retirement in 1998. She authored or co-authored more than sixty-five books and articles related to linguistics, her life among the Mazatec and other subjects.

Eunice Pike died 18 August at the age of ninety-seven due to complications from a fall. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Evelyn G. Pike, numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

Eugene Nida, Leading Scholar and Theorist

Dr. Eugene Nida (photo from A. Nida was born 11 November 1914 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Early academic success demonstrated Nida’s intellectual prowess: when he graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Greek from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1936, he earned one of the highest ratings in the University’s history. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in New Testament Greek from the University of Southern California in 1939 and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1943. He became one of the twentieth century’s leading scholars in the field of translation theory.
Nida became involved with SIL (then known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) early in its history. He was one of a handful of students who participated in the third session of summer courses which was held in 1936. Eunice Pike and Florence Hansen were fellow students; Ken Pike served as instructor of phonetics. Ken Pike recalls,
During that summer, Eugene Nida…started as a student, but because of his training in linguistics in California, he was asked to help teach morphology.... At the end of the summer [William Cameron] Townsend urged that the three of us (Townsend, Nida, Pike) write books on linguistics....Nida wrote the important book Morphology (1946, second edition 1949), which he used as a textbook when he taught with us for some years at SIL’s linguistic courses at the University of Oklahoma.1

Nida continued to serve as SIL’s instructor of Morphology and Syntax every summer through 1953. One of Nida’s most important contributions to linguistic scholarship was his work on the ground-breaking concept of dynamic equivalence (which later developed into functional equivalence). This theory advanced translation scholarship beyond a search for one-to-one, word-by-word equivalents. Rather, Nida taught that the most accurate translation of a text was one that communicated the same ideas the original audience would have understood. “The translator must strive for equivalence [between the source and target languages, resulting in] the closest natural equivalent of the source-language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style.”2

Nida was the author or co-author of more than fifty publications, including the monumental, two-volume reference work, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, co-authored with Johannes Louw. Nida’s writings have been influential in the work of Translation Studies scholars around the world. Nida also traveled extensively, training translators and serving as a consultant for translations of the Bible.

Eugene Nida and his first wife, Althea (Sprague) Nida, who died in 1993, were married for nearly fifty years. Nida is survived by his second wife, Dr. Elena Fernández-Miranda of Brussels, Belgium. Eugene Nida died on 24 August 2011, at the age of ninety-six.

Related links of interest

1. Pike, Kenneth L., “Reminiscences by Pike on Early American Anthropological Linguistics,” SIL Electronic Working Papers 1 (May 2001).

2. Nida, Eugene and Charles R. Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation (1969):12, quoted in Kenneth A. McElhanon, “From Word to Scenario: The Influence of Linguistic Theories Upon Models of Translation,” Journal of Translation 1.3 (2005):29-67.

Additional Sources

Pike, Eunice V. (1964) 1990. Not Alone. Chicago: Moody Bible Insitute. Republication, Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

“Dr. Eugene Nida (November 11, 1914 - August 25, 2011),” accessed 13 September 2011 (no longer available online, see Nida's life milestones).

“The Reverend Eugene Nida,” The Telegraph, 1 September 2011, accessed 13 September 2011.