In Memoriam

Irena Findeisen-Bellert (1919-2017)

The McGill Department of Linguistics is sad to report that Irena Bellert, colleague in our department from 1972 till 1990, passed away on 17 December 2017, in Rawdon, Quebec. She was born in Poland in 1919, and during World War II was arrested as a member of the Secret Polish Army. She was released after six months for lack of evidence. After the war, she worked first as a translator for the American Consulate in Sopot, later at the US embassy in Warsaw, and then with the Mexican Legation. In 1948 she was arrested on charges of espionage, was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released after 4 years 8 months. In 1960 she received an MA degree in English Studies from the University of Warsaw for her thesis Formalization of Grammatical Subject in English. For having the highest grades in a graduate program, she was awarded a scholarship (1960-1961) to study at MIT, one year before the first year of graduate students entered the newly created linguistics graduate program founded by Morris Halle and Noam Chomsky. She returned to Poland and the Department of Formal Linguistics in the Faculty of Philology at the University of Warsaw where in 1964 she received her doctoral degree and in 1973, her Habilitation. Her volume On the Logico-Semantic Structure of Utterances won a prize from the Social Sciences Division of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1973.

Irena was hired at McGill in 1972, originally as a Visiting Professor; in 1974 she was given a joint appointment in the Department of Linguistics and the Graduate Program in Communications. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1978 and to Full Professor in 1986. Irena was a trailblazer and a role model for many of her colleagues and students. In the Department of Linguistics she taught semantics and instilled in her students an understanding of both the rigor and creativity of her field, as well as a sense of delight in the discovery of patterns and puzzles. Her research on formal semantics, semiotics and text analysis was published in a variety of international journals and as book chapters. In 1990 she retired to Rawdon, Qc, inviting the department to her home for a celebration and to plant a tree that we had bought to show our appreciation for her contributions to the department. Students and colleagues alike have very fond memories of Irena – her love for her work, her warmth, her wisdom, and her strength of character. Our thoughts are with the three generations of her family who have lost an exceptional person.

(some content adapted from her Wikipedia page)

Hiroko Hagiwara (1955-2015)

It is with great sadness that the Department of Linguistics acknowledges the passing away on July 10th, 2015 of Dr. Hiroko Hagiwara, McGill MA 1982, PhD 1987. Hiroko studied at McGill between 1979 and 1987 and during that time became a much loved and respected member of our department. She wrote her PhD thesis, Sentence comprehension disturbances in Japanese aphasics, under the direction of Dr. David Caplan, then a professor at McGill. She was the only McGill PhD from Japan in the first fifteen years of McGill's graduate program, but started a trend that has continued. In the 28 years that have followed, there have been 15 PhD theses from Japanese students, and Hiroko was a role model for many of them. Since leaving McGill, Hiroko became a well-known neuro-/psycho-linguist in Japan, creating a new research center for neurolinguistics at Tokyo Metropolitain University, which had its inaugural symposium as recently as March 2015. For the significant contribution and influence she had on the academia/science, Hiroko has been posthumously awarded the rank of 'Jushii' (Junior Fourth Rank) and at the same time, awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette ('Zuihoo Syoo Zyu Syoo') by the Japanese government. Hiroko’s death came as a shock to those at McGill who knew her, but we are left with wonderful memories of a warm and special person.

On a personal note, I first came to know Hiroko as a fellow graduate student during her first year at McGill when we were both in the MA program. While I left Montreal soon after, I continued to see her often during my four PhD years away since, for several years, she was my (now) husband’s across the hall neighbour and our paths crossed whenever I visited and during my summers in Montreal. In March 1984, I stayed with her when I came back to McGill for my job talk in March 1984, and then we continued our friendship when I returned to McGill as an Assistant Professor in September 1984. While we were only in contact a few times since her return to Japan, I have always had special memories of Hiroko. It is hard to accept that I won’t be able to see her again. She was a wonderful person and she leaves behind many people who remember her fondly.

Written by Lisa Travis

Nicole Domingue (1932-2011)

It is with considerable regret that we report the death of Nicole Domingue, formerly Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics, who died in Toronto on December 15th 2011. Nicole was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1932 and educated at the Sorbonne, completing a first degree in geography in 1954, followed by a postgraduate certificate in Social Anthropology in 1955. She worked for three years as a research assistant in anthropology for the Musée de l’homme in Paris, obtaining a diploma in West African Studies in 1959. Following her marriage in 1960, she moved to Austin, Texas, and enrolled in the PhD program in Linguistics at the University of Texas, where she also taught French. Her PhD dissertation focused on linguistic properties of Mauritian Bhojpuri and Mauritian Creole, particularly with respect to language interference, linguistic variation and historical change. She was one of the first linguists to apply the methodology of sociolinguistics to the to study of Mauritian Creole. After obtaining her PhD in 1971, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor in Linguistics at Indiana University at South Bend. In 1975, she joined the Department of Linguistics at McGill. She was granted tenure in 1982 and retired from McGill in December 1994.

Nicole Domingue’s teaching focused on anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. She taught undergraduate and graduate courses and supervised graduate students in these areas. In her research, she continued to pursue interests developed from ideas originally investigated in her PhD dissertation, with an ongoing focus on creoles, including Mauritian Creole and Middle English (which, she argued, is also a Creole). She also investigated how the development of language is influenced by language contact and borrowing. Her interest in language contact led her to the study of bilingualism and multilingualism in individuals and society.

Nicole Domingue was especially appreciated at the departmental and Faculty level for her contributions to service. In the Department of Linguistics, she served as both undergraduate and graduate advisor. She was appointed Chair in 1985 and served two terms, ending in 1992. In 1994, she accepted an appointment in the Faculty of Arts as Acting Associate Dean, Student Affairs, a position which she held until her retirement.

Nicole will be remembered above all as a genuinely caring person, committed to colleagues and students, generous and accessible. She had an open-door policy and was always ready to discuss problems and propose solutions. Students at all levels – her own students as well as others -consistently commented on her availability and helpfulness. Nicole was well used to managing the pressures of juggling an academic career with family needs (she brought up four children) and she was a mentor to others in the same situation.

Nicole had many outside interests. She was passionate about music, a passion she passed on to her four children. During her years in Montreal, she and her family lived in the Point and she was dedicated to the needs of the community there.

Nicole is survived by her four children and three grandchildren and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.

Written by Lydia White





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