Linguist Wallace Chafe Receives UC Distinguished Emeriti Award

Wallace Chafe, an emeritus professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has received the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award for 2008. Presented annually, the prize honors retired faculty members of the 10-campus University of California system for their continued outstanding scholarly work or educational service in the social sciences or humanities.

Chafe, who retired in 1991, is the 20th UC emeriti professor to receive the award and the third from UCSB. Previous recipients include Garret Hardin, an emeritus professor of biological sciences and environmental studies who died in 2003, and the late Robert O. Collins, an emeritus professor of history. Hardin received the award in 1997 and Collins in 2007. Also receiving a 2008 award is Robert Hine, a professor of history at UC Irvine.

"It's really gratifying to have this kind of recognition for the various things I've been doing since I retired," said Chafe. "I like to joke that being retired is too much work, but in fact it's much better to have too much to do than too little."

David Marshall, dean of humanities and fine arts at UCSB, said of Chafe: "Although he retired 17 years ago, Wallace Chafe has continued to be an important colleague and researcher in the Department of Linguistics, as well as a dynamic force in his field. He has accomplished more since his retirement than many accomplish in their careers. We are grateful to have him in our intellectual community, continuing to bring distinction to our fine department."

Chafe is currently at work on several different projects, including a contribution to an upcoming conference on music and emotion that will be held at Stanford University. He will relate the expression of emotion in language to similar phenomena in music. In addition, he is preparing two presentations for the annual meeting of the International Society for Humor Studies, which will take place in Spain in July. He is also completing a book that examines how individuals associate their thoughts with sounds. Finally, he continues to be active as a linguistic consultant for the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York State.

Chafe is a leading authority on Native American linguistics -- specifically the Iroquois, Seneca, and Caddo languages -- and in the two years following his retirement, he conducted a major National Science Foundation-funded study of Seneca discourse. Because Caddo and Seneca are languages used by only a handful of elderly speakers, his work makes a critical contribution to the cultural heritage of their peoples.

He also supports the Seneca's bilingual education program.

A Symposium in Honor of Wallace Chafe was held in 2005 at the Louvain Institute in Belgium, recognizing his seminal contributions to the preservation of indigenous languages.

Chafe has written widely on discourse analysis and language and cognition, and is the author of "The Importance of Not Being Earnest" (John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2007) and "Discourse, Consciousness, and Time: The Flow and Displacement of Conscious Experience in Speaking and Writing" (University of Chicago Press, 1994).

The Distinguished Emeriti Award is named for the late Constantine Panunzio, a professor of sociology at UCLA for many years. Described as the architect of the UC retirement system, Panunzio was particularly active in improving pensions and stipends for his fellow emeriti. The award bearing his name was established in 1983 and includes a $5,000 prize.

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