DR. BLAIR RUDES – Death of linguist

Professor, who worked to restore long-lost Algonquian language

Word has spread slowly about the death of Dr. Blair Rudes on 16th March, 2008.
The linguist and renowned translator of American Indian languages died of a heart attack after working out at a gym near UNC Charlotte.

Rudes, 57, devoted his life to linguistics — the study of a language’s structure and development — and gave thousands of Algonquans their native voice.

“What was cool about Dr. Rudes was he was revitalizing stuff,” said Leach, who was taking Rudes’ linguistics class this semester. “That he could actually speak them, that blew our minds. I never had anyone like him before.”

Rudes began his work with the Tuscarora tribe, which has roots both in Eastern North Carolina and western New York State, while a graduate student at the University of Buffalo. In 1999, he published his most highly regarded work, a 700-page cross-language dictionary of the Tuscarora language.

He was to travel to Buffalo in April to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his work with Indian languages.

The last known speaker of Algonquian died in the late 18th century. But thanks to Rudes, Whitford now speaks her ancestral tongue when she visits schools to talk about her heritage. Not everyone can say they have done what he has done, giving a language back to its people.

How do we pay a tribute to this dynamic man, lesser known in India and to Indians?

Often one comes across die-hard lovers of some Indian languages, who seek shoulders to cry on, fretting about the diminishing interest of people in their mother tongue. We will easily recollect the mournful utterances for Gujarati, Marathi, etc.

In the age of globalisation, one is often inclined to learn more about a common language (English, in India), but that does not mean that such highly evolved languages will become extinct in the days or decades to come.

Dr. Rudes was a legend, who has left a legacy of certain mind sets. We do not know who is doing what for his/her language in this world, even by using the world wide web! When we have had someone like Dr. Rudes, we can hope that his soul is now active in many souls, working towards keeping the interest in the ‘dying’ languages alive!  


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