Howard McKaughan and Barbara Grimes remembered

(March 2014) SIL staff are saddened by the recent deaths of two colleagues, Dr. Howard P. McKaughan and Barbara F. Grimes.

Dr. Howard P. McKaughan (1922-2013)

Howard P. McKaughan, long-time SIL linguist and founder of the linguistics program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, passed away at the age of 91 in November 2013.

During his seventeen years with SIL (1946-1963), McKaughan made many important contributions. His earliest work was with the Chatino language community of Mexico, with whom he worked to develop a dictionary, one of the first publications in the Chatino language.

McKaughan is best known for his work with Asia-Pacific languages. In 1953 he was among the first group of SIL linguists to begin working in the Philippines. While researching the Maranao language of the southern Philippines, McKaughan was one of the first linguists to propose an analysis of voice systems in Philippine languages, a complex grammatical issue. McKaughan’s career would later include work in Hawai'i, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

McKaughan served in several important leadership roles. In 1959 he was appointed as the second director of SIL Philippines, a role he held until 1962. After earning a PhD from Cornell University in 1963, he spent twenty-five years (1963 to 1988) at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he was instrumental in starting the Linguistics Department and served as its founding Chair. He worked as Professor of Linguistics, Chairman of the Linguistics Department, Director of the Pacific and Asian Linguistics Institute, Dean of the Graduate Division, Director of Research, and as Acting Chancellor. Upon retirement he was given the title Professor Emeritus. McKaughan also contributed to the establishment of the linguistics department of Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


[Howard McKaughan was] a person who truly exemplified high ideals in faith, scholarship, and mentoring.…Inspired by his legacy we desire likewise that our research with minority peoples will not only honor them as a unique and valuable culture in their country but also reflect the integrity and high standards that Howard has exemplified in his life and work. There are few other SIL linguists with as great an impact as Howard. He was a giant in Austronesian linguistics and in linguistics across the Asia-Pacific region.
-Brian Migliazza, SIL Asia Area Linguistics Coordinator

Even though McKaughan was not formally connected with SIL after 1963, he continued to be influential as a friend and mentor to many SIL linguists in Asia and the Pacific. A 2010 festschrift, a collection of forty-two papers entitled Piakandatu ami Dr. Howard P. McKaughan (In Honor of Dr. Howard P. McKaughan), reflects the esteem in which he was held by many.

Howard McKaughan is survived by four daughters, ten grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of sixty-one years, Barbara McKaughan, and one daughter.

Barbara F. Grimes (1930-2014)

Barbara Grimes, the longest serving editor of the Ethnologue, passed away on 1 March in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as the result of a stroke. Grimes had served with SIL for sixty-three years.

Born in 1930, Barbara Fornasero was a registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her father was a mother-tongue speaker of the Piemontese language. Her formal study of languages began with a Greek major at Wheaton College, where she became acquainted with fellow student Joe Grimes. The two attended SIL’s summer training programs at the University of Oklahoma in 1950 and 1951 and decided to begin serving with SIL in Mexico.

The Grimes spent the early years of their careers involved with language development in the Huichol community in the mountains of west-central Mexico. They worked with a local team on a translation of the New Testament, Cacaüyari Niuquieya, which was published in 1967. In her later years Barbara had a role in the ongoing translation of the Huichol Old Testament. The Grimes also participated in the translation of the New Testament into Hawai'i Pidgin, Da Jesus Book, more than 85,000 copies of which have been sold since its publication in 2000. A lifelong learner, Grimes began studying Hebrew on her 74th birthday to prepare for the Hawai’i Pidgin Old Testament project.

the Grimes family in 1959   

Though begun by Richard Pittman, the Ethnologue research agenda and the resulting publication were shaped and developed by Barbara over her tenure from 1953 until 2001, first as a research assistant, then as assistant editor in 1967, and finally as editor beginning in 1971. Under her leadership Ethnologue grew from being an incomplete listing of languages to a comprehensive reference work providing a basic description of the situation of every known living language. With the assistance of her husband, Joseph E. Grimes, she also oversaw the transition of the Ethnologue from a paper-based publication to a computer database from which a website and various publications could be produced.
-Paul Lewis, General Editor of Ethnologue

For many years, Barbara and Joe taught in SIL’s summer training programs at the University of Oklahoma and elsewhere. Barbara introduced many students to the foundational principles of linguistics as an instructor of phonetics, phonology and grammar. Other courses she taught included introductory Spanish, sociolinguistic survey and cultural anthropology. She authored numerous publications in sociolinguistics and anthropology, as well as Huichol-language publications on various topics.

Barbara Grimes is best known for her work on the Ethnologue. She was invited to help with the project early on and served in various roles for nearly fifty years. Grimes was instrumental in developing the Ethnologue from its origins as a few mimeographed pages of language data into a reference work known to virtually every linguist. She completed an in-depth revision of the Ethnologue’s information on languages of Africa, the Americas, the Pacific and several Asian countries. During her years as editor, the number of identified languages grew from 4,493 to 6,809 and the published work more than tripled in size.

In addition to its contribution as a reference work, the Ethnologue also prompted people to explore important questions such as the dividing line between ‘language’ and ‘dialect,’ as well as the nature of creole languages. In her many conference presentations and professional publications, Grimes addressed issues in sociolinguistics and dialectology, bringing sense and reason to topics that many people felt passionately about.

As a result of her work on the Ethnologue and related publications, Grimes was awarded an honorary doctorate by Wheaton College in 1993.

Barbara Grimes is survived by her husband Joe and sons Chuck and Keith, as well as seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren, and preceded in death by her daughter, Marilyn Grimes Thrasher.


Related links