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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.


And see here for Ingrid Piller's reflection on how Michael Clyne influenced her.

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.

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.

And a short obituary on Linguist List by Farzad Sharifian.

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.

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.

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