G. Tucker Childs

Posted: January 2021

The LSA regrets to announce the death of Professor G. Tucker Childs, who devoted decades of research to the documentation and preservation of endangered West African languages and their cultures. A member of the LSA since 1984,Tucker died on January 26, 2021, in Portland, Oregon, due to complications related to legionella. He was the recipient of the Kenneth L. Hale Award in 2018, which recognizes scholars who have done outstanding work on the documentation of a particular language or family of languages that is endangered or no longer spoken. Tucker also served tirelessly for many years as the editor for Studies in African Linguistics, (which was briefly published in as one of the LSA's eLanguage co-journals) a public forum for African language scholars to discuss issues in the field of African Linguistics which might not have a place in more widely recognized journals. Read his tribute attached below or online here. This notice will be updated as we have a chance to collect further information about Tucker's obituary details.

Remembrances may be posted in the comments box below and will be shared with Childs' family. Donations in his honor may be made to the Sherbro Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by a former Peace Corps volunteer, which follows the Peace Corps model of empowering grassroots organizations on community-led development to support them in meeting identified needs, focusing on girls' education and economic development. Please include "Tucker Childs" in the special instructions. He would be truly honored.

Excerpts from the attached tribute:

During his 40+ year career, Childs produced grammars, dictionaries, readers, and primers, as well as numerous academic articles, on several languages of the West Atlantic Bolom group, which includes Kisi, Bom, Mani, Kim, and Sherbro. His research has been funded by a number of prestigious institutions: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, Bremer Stiftung für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie, National Science Foundation (NSF), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London (UCL), and Fulbright Research Foundation. In going beyond lexico-grammatical information, his work provides a model for the documentation of endangered African languages by considering the theoretical and methodological issues related to language documentation in its social context, from greater emphasis on naturally occurring conversational data and the adoption of metadata conventions for more nuanced descriptions of socio-cultural settings to considering the impact of language policy and planning. Most importantly, he strove to overcome the way in which Western language ideologies have unjustly influenced language documentation practices in non-Western societies. Professor Childs taught linguistics at a number of prestigious institutions, including Temple University (Philadelphia), University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), Universität Freiburg (Germany) University of Toronto (Canada), and ultimately Portland State University (Portland, Oregon). He was recognized in a 2009 New York Times article, “Linguist’s Preservation Kit Has New Digital Tools”, regarding his work documenting the Kim language in Tei, Sierra Leone.