Kenneth Lee Pike

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Kenneth Lee Pike (June 9, 1912–December 31, 2000), also known during his life as Ken Pike, was an American linguist and anthropologist. He was the originator of the theory of tagmemics and coiner of the terms "emic" and "etic".



Pike was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, and studied theology at Gordon College, graduating with a B.A. in 1933. He initially wanted to do missionary work in China; when this was denied him, went on in 1935 to study linguistics with Summer Institute of Linguistics (S.I.L.). He went to Mexico with SIL, learning Mixtec from native speakers there.

In 1937 Pike went to the University of Michigan, where he worked for his doctorate in linguistics under Edward Sapir. His research involved living among the Mixtecs, and he and his wife Evelyn developed a written system for the Mixtec language. After gaining his Ph. D. In 1942, Pike became president of Summer Institute in Linguistics (SIL). The Institute's main function was to produce translations of the Judæo-Christian Bible into unwritten languages, and in 1951 Pike published the Mixtec New Testament. He was the President of SIL International from 1942 to 1979.

As well as and in parallel with his role at SIL, Pike spent thirty years at the University of Michigan, during which time he served as chairman of its linguistics department, professor of linguistics, and director of its English Language Institute (he did pioneering work in the field of English language learning and teaching) and was later Professor Emeritus of the university.

He was a member of National Academy of Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS), and the American Anthropological Association. He served as president of LSA and LACUS.

He was nominated for the Nobel Prize 15 years in a row and the Templeton Prize three years (Headland 2001:506).

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