John J Gumperz, 1922-2013

It is with immense sadness that I have learned of the recent death of John J Gumperz, whom I mentioned in a previous post. Without this eminent and brilliant scholar, I would literally not be writing these words, because one of the primary methods I use in my research and analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, would likely not exist in its current state.

Here is the link to a wonderful and well-written obituary of Professor Gumperz in the New York Times. This obituary also provides a succinct overview of the importance of understanding how contextual factors surrounding interaction can influence meaning, miscommunication, and misunderstanding – and how miscommunication can be reduced through research, analysis, and understanding.

A follow-up to the NYTimes obituary is this transcription of an interview with Deborah Tannen from NPR News (US). Tannen studied with Professor Gumperz and provides additional comment (albeit brief, given the nature of live radio news interviews) into both Gumperz’s work and into the benefits and insight of linguistic anthropology methods.