Emmon Bach

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Emmon Bach

Professor Emeritus
BornJune 12, 1929[1]
DiedNovember 28, 2014 (2014-11-29) (aged 85)[1]
Oxford, England
Cause of deathpneumonia
OccupationAmerican linguist
Spouse(s)Jean Bach
Wynn Chao[1]
ChildrenMeta Elizabeth Bach (d. 1984)
Carl Eric Bach
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Chicago[1]
ThesisPatterns of Syntax in Hoelderlin’s Poems[4] (1959)

Emmon Bach (June 12, 1929 – November 28, 2014) was an American linguist. He was Professor Emeritus at the Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London. He was born in Kumamoto, Japan.[2]

His interests included syntax, phonology, the languages of British Columbia (especially Haisla), problems of tense and aspect in semantics, and formal problems and semantic issues in the morphology of polysynthetic languages. In November 2014, he died in Oxford.[5]

Early years[edit]

Bach's parents, Ditlev Gotthard Monrad Bach and Ellen Sigrid Bach - originally from Copenhagen, Denmark - were Lutheran missionaries in Japan.[6][3] Bach – and all but the oldest of his five siblings – was born in Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu.[6] Since his father taught Japanese to the American Navy language officers during the World War II, they were considered to be American nationals, and received warnings to leave Japan in 1941. As a child Bach spoke Danish and some Japanese.[6] When he was ten, Bach was sent to the International Canadian Academy in Kobe. In Fresno, California his father was a "pastor to Japanese-Americans interned during the war."[3] Bach attended Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado and Roosevelt High School in Fresno, CA.[3][1]


He "did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Germanic studies[4] in 1959."[1][2][3] He was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Tuebingen from 1955-56.[2][6]

Academic career[edit]

His first regular academic job was at the University of Texas at Austin where he taught from 1959 to 1972. He started in the German department and gradually switched to linguistics. He was part of the newly formed linguistics department.[3] After spending a year teaching at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York he began teaching at the University of Massachusetts.[3]

He began teaching as professor of linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1973.[1][2][3] "He taught syntax, semantics, typology and field methods, and supervised 12 doctorate dissertations in semantics, syntax and phonology."[3] Following his retirement in 1992, he continued to be active in academia.

Emmon's numerous publications included reviews, articles and books on "syntax, phonology, morphology and semantics, including on problems of tense and aspect in semantics, and on formal problems and semantic issues in the morphology of polysynthetic languages."[3][7]

During the 1980s and 1990s Bach worked extensively in British Columbia.[3] From 1994 to 1999 he worked as a visiting professor with the First Nations Programme of the University of Northern British Columbia where he went to local First Nations communities to teach and co-teach primarily for First Nations students. He also worked as a language resource for the Haisla Treaty Commission.[6] By 2003 Bach had already nurtured "longtime involvement with the Haisla language community in the coastal village of Kitimaat in British Columbia. His work with the Haisla has included preparation of a new dictionary and two volumes of traditional stories and life stories; transcription of biblical and homiletic materials produced by Christian missionaries in the 1940’s; and the creation of an extensive archive of linguistic work on Haisla."[8] When he first arrived in Kitimaat, Mike Shaw, a Haisla speaker, asked "Why should we help you, what good will all that do for us?" "From this exchange Bach formulated what he has come to call Mike Shaw’s Principle: Time and resources for community-relevant research and activities should equal those devoted to community-external aims."[8]


Bach was elected president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1996.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Both his first wife, Jean Bach, and his daughter predeceased him.[3] He is survived by his son, Prof. Eric Bach, daughter in law, Lynn, and grandson Carl Esteban. He was married to the linguist Wynn Chao with whom he co-authored academic publications.[9] He moved to London, England in 2002.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Bach, Emmon (1964). An Introduction to Transformational Grammars. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York.
  • Bach, Emmon (1974). Syntactic Theory. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York.
  • Bach, Emmon (1989). Informal Lectures on Formal Semantics. SUNY Press. Albany.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Emmon Bach 1929-2014". Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts. Amherst, MA. 5 December 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bach, Emmon (2008). "Emmon W. Bach curriculum vitae 25 March 2008". Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Emmon Bach (1929 - 2014) Obituary". Gazette. 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b Bach, Emmon (1959). Patterns of Syntax in Hoelderlin’s Poems (Thesis). Chicago. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  5. ^ Partee, Barbara, ed. (5 December 2014). "R.I.P. Emmon Bach" (Obituary). Language Log, University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e Bach, Emmons (2014). "Me and the German Language: Excerpts from an Autobiography". University of Massachusetts. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Publications in Linguistics by Emmon Bach". University of Massachusetts. 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b Allen, Terry Y. (2003), "At-risk Native Talk", University of Massachusetts Magazine, archived from the original on 13 February 2016, retrieved 8 January 2016
  9. ^ Bach, Emmon; Chao, Wynn (2008), Chris Collins; Morten Christiansen; Shimon Edelman, eds., On semantic universals and typology (PDF), Language Universals, Oxford: Oxford University Press

External links[edit]