Pieter Muysken

Larry Martin (TD) reports on the death of Pieter Muysken (TD):

“I’m sad to report that Pieter Muysken (TD) died on April 11 after a short battle with cancer. Anyone who knew him at Durfee and TD will remember, in the words of a common friend, ‘the overalls, the hair, the rosy cheeks, the cheerful exuberance.’ Pieter focused on each of his friends: looking straight at you, listening intently, and expressing boundless enthusiasm for whatever you said. He laughed all the time. Pieter was also blazingly smart – excelling at studies even though, born in South America and raised in Holland, English was maybe his fourth language.  After college, Pieter returned to Holland, where he became a prominent linguist, specializing in, as a colleague reports, ‘contact linguistics, especially creole studies and code-mixing, plus the languages of the Andes.’ He was awarded the Spinoza Prize, Holland’s highest scientific award, in 1998. On a site commemorating his scholarly career, https://neerlandistiek.nl/2021/04/de-dag-dat-ik-sterf-begraaf-me-dan-met-boeken/#, almost a hundred former students and colleagues shared tributes to his rigor, kindness, and generosity.  On a personal note, Pieter and I stayed close during the nearly fifty years since graduation, visiting each other in Amsterdam, at his ramshackle farmhouse in France, and in New York; he was a true and caring friend. Pieter leaves behind two grown children, Hannah and Daniel.”


Deborah Bernick (TD) adds her remembrance:

“Pieter was curious, fun-loving, perpetually upbeat, down-to-earth and KIND. He was a brilliant guy in bib overalls and long-hair.  We all remember great intellectual discussions with him and taking fun excursions or “adventures” — even in the middle of New England snowstorms. He was one of the very few undergrads from overseas in those days and remained a fount of knowledge about other cultures. I got to visit Pieter & his family in Holland in 1970, taking a Yale charter flight to Europe. Years later, in 2012, we had a nostalgic mini-reunion with a TD friend in New York City. It was a blessing to have known Pieter at Yale and to realize over the years what a great scholar, teacher, and linguist he became.”


Here is an excerpt from Pieter’s official obituary from 6/22/2021 (unsourced):

“. . . Pieter Muysken was one of the most prolific, but also one of the kindest linguists of our time. Born into an expatriate Dutch family in Oruro, Bolivia, his first languages were Quechua, Spanish, and Dutch. He studied at Yale University and the University of Amsterdam, where he defended his thesis on the verb phrase of Ecuadorian Quechua in 1977. He became full professor of General Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam, then at the University of Leiden and later at Radboud University in Nijmegen. Pieter was exceptionally intelligent. Through hundreds of publications and numerous students from various countries, he advanced the field of modern linguistics while training of students across a wide variety of disciplines. Pieter Muysken made ground-breaking and influential contributions to generative linguistics, historical linguistics, language contact studies, areal linguistics, bilingualism, code-switching, creole, pidgins and mixed languages, Andean and Amazonian languages, and other areas, including the study of early sources on creole and Andean languages. He won several prestigious international awards, including the Spinoza Prize in 1998, which is the highest scientific award in the Netherlands. Typical of his generosity he used the prize money to support students and research projects, also in Brazil. Pieter was honest, generous and amiable. Averse to elitism and arrogance, he was always excited and willing to help others with ideas and solutions, both on a professional and a personal level. Much more than a colleague, he was a great friend and an exemplary man. Pieter Muysken’s departure is an immeasurable loss, but his scientific legacy and example remains with us . . . “