…one of my profs was Kenneth Pike. He was an eminence in American linguistics, although his name became less known following the Chomskyan revolution. Pike is responsible for the terms “etic” and “emic” which have to do with description of behavior by an outside observer or by an insider. His 1943 book Phonetics was for many years the most comprehensive resource for articulatory phonetics, his 1947 book Phonemics became the essential text on phonology, and those are just two of 0ver 250 works he published in the course of over 60 years as a linguist.
One of my favorite and most challenging courses in grad school was a history of American linguistics taught by Dr. Pike. Our text was a pamphlet written in 1965 by him and his sister Eunice Pike called Live Issues in Descriptive Linguistics, which was a linguistics bibliography organized under discussion questions. For each class, one of the discussion questions was assigned and we had to read several of the listed publications and write a response paper. In class, Pike would flip through our papers, select a few, and cross-examine each author regarding what he had said. (I don’t recall any women in that class.) It could be quite intimidating.
One of my proudest moments was when I compared an old article by Pike on Immediate Constituent analysis with one by Longacre (another of my profs and a close colleague of Pike’s) on string analysis. IC analysis breaks linguistic constructs into two parts (subject/predicate, verb phrase/prepositional phrase, preposition/noun phrase, etc.) until a sentence is completely parsed. String analysis, on the other hand, parses a sentence based on the number of sentence-level elements it contains (subject/verb/object/location/time, etc.) and then each of those elements is parsed similarly. I argued that the IC assumption that each structure can be divided into two primary parts was arbitrary, and that the tree chart in Pike’s article made it look like some phrase elements were at the same level as some sentence elements, whereas Longacre’s chart made it much clearer to which level the elements belonged. Pike and I had a fairly long discussion about this in class, while my classmates looked on in admiration and/or bewilderment. In the end, Pike agreed with me.
Occasionally Ken would scrawl comments in the margins of our papers. His handwriting was worse than a medical doctor’s. I once showed him one of his notes and asked him what it said. He stared at it and said, “I have no idea.”
Pike’s sister Eunice and wife Evelyn were also outstanding linguists. I never had a class with either, but Eunice had taught phonology to some of my classmates, and Evelyn lectured in Pike’s class once on discourse analysis. I argued with Evelyn about one part of her analysis of a narrative about the Dunkirk evacuation; the story included a sentence something along the lines of “Then a miracle began to occur.” Evelyn had charted it as a sequential part of the narrative, whereas I argued that it was an editorial comment by the narrator. She agreed that I had a valid point.
I sat with the Pikes three times that I can recall: for a UTA faculty meeting (I was briefly an adjunct professor), in the cafeteria at the SIL linguistics institute, and at a neighborhood association meeting (the Pikes lived a couple of blocks from me in a little neighborhood full of missionary linguists). Each time we had stimulating conversations. At least once, maybe twice, I heard Ken ask his wife afterwards, “Who was that young man?” He was a genius but not known for his social skills.
Pike died in 2000. Evelyn died just the other day. You can read her obit here.