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Remembering Harold "Hal" Schiffman (1938-2022)

We are saddened to announce that Harold (“Hal”) Schiffman, Emeritus Professor of Dravidian Linguistics and Culture and South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, passed away on December 14, 2022, at his home in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Hal was born in Buffalo, New York in 1938. He earned his B.A. (in German and French) from Antioch College and his M.A. (in Slavic and Dravidian Linguistics) and Ph.D. (in Dravidian Linguistics) from the University of Chicago, where his teachers included A. K. Ramanujan and James McCawley. After a brief stint at U.C. Davis, Hal taught in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington from 1967 to 1995, and then moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1995 where he remained until his retirement in 2007. At Penn, Hal was the Henry R. Luce Professor of Language Learning in what was then the Department of South Asia Regional Studies from 1995-2000, and also served as the Director of the Penn Language Center. From 2002-2005 he served as Director of the Pedagogical Materials Project for the South Asia Language Resource Center.

As professor of Tamil at the University of Washington from 1967-1995, Hal offered a variety of courses in Tamil language, linguistics, and culture and served as Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature from 1982 to 1987. He was also an adjunct faculty member in Linguistics and Anthropology, and Director of the UW Language Center from 1994 to 1995. 

Hal was an internationally renowned scholar not only of Dravidian linguistics, but of language policy and language maintenance.  He wrote grammars, reference materials, and linguistic studies of Tamil, Kannada, and the Dravidian language family. He published widely on the sociolinguistics of South Asia. His studies of Tamil diglossia were well-known and respected, and his book, Linguistic Culture and Language Policy (1996) was a major and widely recognized contribution to the field of language politics. Hal was a dedicated and caring teacher, as well as a generous and thoughtful colleague and administrator. He will be greatly missed. Hal is survived by his wife Marilyn and son Tim.