Bright, William 1928-2006 (William Oliver Bright)

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Bright, William 1928-2006 (William Oliver Bright)


See index for CA sketch: Born August 13, 1928, in Oxnard, CA; died of a brain tumor, October 15, 2006, in Louisville, CO. Linguist, educator, and author. Bright was a leading scholar of dying indigenous languages who was especially well known for documenting the native languages and cultures of California's Native Americans. In 1949, he completed his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley and visited the declining Karuk tribe in northern California. Bright gained the trust of the tribespeople, who would later make him their first non-native honorary member. After serving in the U.S. Army for three years, Bright returned to Berkeley to finish his Ph.D. in 1955. He then traveled to India, where he was a linguistic scholar at Deccan College in Poona. After a year spent working for the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, Bright returned to Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1958. The next year, he moved on to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he remained until 1988, after being named professor of linguistics and anthropology in 1966. His last years in academia were spent as adjunct professor of linguistics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to studying Native American tribes in California and elsewhere, Bright also researched native cultures in Mexico and India. He believed that language was more than just vocabulary and grammar; it was also an integral part of any culture, and thus he was also interested in native music, folklore, and other social aspects of declining tribes and ethnic groups in the world. A former president of the Linguistic Society of America, he served as editor of the journal Language from 1966 to 1987, coedited the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (1985-92), and was the author of several important texts. Among his books are The Karok Language (1957), Animals of Acculturation in the California Indian Languages (1960), Variation and Change in Language (1976), American Indian Linguistics and Literature (1984), and A Coyote Reader (1993).



Chicago Tribune, October 24, 2006, section 2, p. 10.

Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2006, p. B10.

New York Times, October 23, 2006, p. A22.