Professor Emeritus Dr. Howard P. McKaughan (1922-2013).
A graduate of UCLA (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and Cornell University (M.A., Ph.D.), Howard was known for his research on the Chatino language of Mexico, several Eastern Highlands languages of Papua New Guinea, and especially on the Danao Language Family of the Philippines. What many may not know, however, is that he devoted much of the last eight years of his life to language research among the Iranun in Sabah.
Together with his wife Barbara "Bobbie" Jean McKaughan (nee Budroe), Howard worked for seventeen years from 1946 to 1963 with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Wycliffe Bible Translators, and in later years was a consultant to SIL International. He was among the first to set up the Philippines branch of SIL in 1953, and also had a hand in establishing the SIL center at Kangaroo Ground near Warrandyte, Victoria, Australia. From 1959 to 1962, he was Director of the Philippine Branch of Wycliffe. While on loan to the University of Washington in 1961 and 1962, he joined a team of anthropologists to do research in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Among academicians, however, Howard is probably best remembered for being the founder of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii' at Manoa. He served at University of Hawaii' for 25 years in various positions, including Professor of Linguistics, Chairman of the Linguistics Department, Director of the Pacific and Asian Linguistics Institute, Dean of the Graduate Division, Director of Research, and as Acting Chancellor. Many still recall how Prof. Howard used to zoom around campus on his motorbike. When he retired from the university, he was awarded the title Professor Emeritus. But Prof. Howard never really retired, he just changed gears. He moved to Oregon and continued to work on Austronesian languages, doing consultancies in many parts of Southeast Asia, in between occasional camping trips with Bobbie, traveling across the USA by motorbike.
I first met Prof. Howard in 1995, while working as the Research Officer in the Sabah State Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Utama Pandikar Amin bin Hj. Mulia was the Minister at the time (now Speaker of the Malaysian Parliament). Earlier I had introduced some of my friends from SIL to the Minister. As cultural leader of the Iranun, one of the smaller communities in Sabah, he asked SIL International to research and promote literacy in his heritage language which was declining. The coming of Prof. Howard to Sabah was in response to that request. Nicknamed "Mr. Maranao" in academic circles, Prof. Howard was renowned for his firsthand knowledge of Maranao, one of the Danao Family of languages of Mindanao that is closely related to Sabah Iranun.
Energetic and tall, yet dignified, with knowledge and wisdom from vast experience, Prof. Howard also had a sharp wit. He could rub shoulders with powerful leaders, yet maintain his integrity, friendliness and humility. The early Maranao dictionary which he compiled with Batua Al-Macaraya, was based on lexical roots. While interesting for linguists, it was not very "user-friendly" for ordinary Maranao. So, Howard later revised this approach. He once joked that the original large phone-book sized dictionary was still very useful for the Maranao--they used copies as seats for their grandchildren to sit on!
At their first meeting, Tan Sri Pandikar asked Prof. Howard why he had become a linguist. With a twinkle in his eye, Howard told the story of how one day as a boy, while sitting under the tank stand on his father's farm in Santa Monica with his twin brother and cousins, his brother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. When he said "a linguist," his brother retorted "then you'll have to learn to speak Hebrew." "How will I learn that?" asked Howard. "I'll teach you," said his brother. "Repeat after me--Owa." "Owa," said Howard. "Tagu," said his brother. "Tagu," followed Howard. "Saiyam," said his brother. "Saiyam," said Howard. "Now say it all together." "Owa tagu saiyam." "Faster." "Owa tagu saiyam. Owa tagu saiyam. Oh what a goose I am!" This embarrassing experience, he said, made him more determined to become a linguist.
Tan Sri Pandikar and Prof. Howard became fast friends, and Howard became "Grandpa" to younger generations of Iranun and to us all. He mentored other linguists among the Iranun, including Jim and Karla Smith who worked on Iranun language literacy, and was "Grandpa" to their teen daughters. Among the many friends Prof. Howard made in Sabah was Haji Masrin Hj. Hussin, Ketua Daerah for the Iranun of Kota Belud District. Working with Masrin, Howard transcribed volumes of Iranun narratives. Together, they produced several studies on the bayuk poetry and the oral literature of the Iranun. Prof. Howard presented some of their research at the 1996 Borneo Research Council Conference at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, and also attended more recent conferences.
I recall another amusing incident, sometime in 2007, when Prof. Howard was invited to meet the then Vice Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Prof. Datuk Mohd Noh Dalimin. I accompanied him to meet the Vice Chancellor. After shaking hands, Datuk Noh turned over Prof. Howard's hand and pretended to read his palm, "Professor of Linguistics ... Dean of Research ... Acting Vice Chancellor...," to which Howard pulled away his hand saying "You Sir have been reading my CV, not my palm!"
Prof. Howard made many trips to Sabah, but a troublesome hip replacement and later the death of his beloved Bobbie in 2005 slowed his pace in later years. During 2007, friends and colleagues began to put together the festschrift Piakandatu ami Dr. Howard P. McKaughan (edited by Loren Billings and Nelleke Goudswaarde, Linguistic Society of the Philippines and SIL Philippines, 2010).
Late in 2011, he returned briefly to Sabah to sign a Letter of Intent with UM S on behalf of SIL International. This took place on 17 October at the opening of the International Workshop on "Fieldworks" Software that was jointly organized by the Centre for the Promotion of Knowledge and Language Learning at UMS, the Kadazandusun Chair, UMS, and SIL International. It laid the foundation for the signing of a full Memorandum of Understanding the following year. His last visit to UMS took place on 2 November 2011, when he attended a half-day seminar on "Heritage Language Based Multi-Lingual Education" by Jim and Dr. Karla Smith.
Professor Emeritus Howard McKaughan will be remembered for his more than 80 publications, especially his contributions to knowledge of Austronesian languages, and for deciphering the voice systems of Philippine-type languages, as well as for having established the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii' at Manoa. Grandpa Howard will be remembered and loved for his warmth, humor, integrity, and genuine concern for people.
He is survived by four daughters, ten grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren.
(Jacqueline Pugh-Kitingan, Professor of Ethnomusicology, and Holder of the Kadazandusun Chair, Universiti Malaysia Sabah)
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|Publication:||Borneo Research Bulletin|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
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