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University of Pittsburgh

In Memoriam

Christina Bratt Paulston

It is with great sadness that the Department of Linguistics and the English Language Institute, University of Pittsburgh, announce that Professor Christina Bratt Paulston passed away late last week. Her colleagues, her former students, and her friends will greatly miss her academic insights and her vigorous spirit and wit.

A native of Sweden, Professor Bratt Paulston was a graduate of Carleton College, the University of Minnesota, and Teachers’ College Columbia University, where she earned her doctorate in 1966. After an international career teaching in the USA, Sweden, Morocco, Peru, and India, Christina joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1969.

Christina was an internationally renowned scholar, contributing to many subfields of linguistics. In English as Second/Foreign Language, she was a pioneer in bringing the insights of Hymes’ Communicative Competence into language teaching (Paulston, 1974). Her scholarship extended from theoretical considerations in instruction to innovative techniques and materials for classroom practice (e.g., Paulston & Bruder, 1975).

Her focus on policy in bilingual education (e.g., Paulston, 1994) led her naturally to concerns about the learners themselves and more specifically the rights of speakers in both their first and second languages. Thus, her scholarship extended to core areas of sociolinguistics (Paulston, 1976; Paulston & Tucker, 1997) and to language contact. She researched the dynamics of language maintenance and shift resulting from immigration and colonialism. This work covered a broad range of topics across time and geographic regions. She tackled problems such as explaining language shift in Palestine at the time of Christ (Paulston, 2001, Paulston, Watt & Spolsky, 2012) as well as the issues faced by language minority/majority communities caught up in post-colonial political change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (e.g., Paulston et al., 2007). Her students remember her classes as thought-provoking, entertaining and inspiring, as she drew not only on her remarkable scholarship, but also on her own multilingual and multicultural experiences. She published many papers with her students in edited volumes and journals. After officially retiring from Pitt, she continued her scholarship that resulted in various articles as well as edited volumes with colleagues and students (e.g., Kiesling & Paulston, 2008; Paulston, Kiesling & Rangel, 2012).

At the University of Pittsburgh, Christina was Director of the English Language Institute (ELI) from 1969-1998, Chair of the Department of Linguistics from 1975-1989. She served on a wide-range of committees at the University, including terms on the University Senate. She also served on the Linguistic Society of America’s Committee on Linguistics and the Public Interest (1973-1977), was President of TESOL in 1976, and was a trustee of the Center of Applied Linguistics from 1976-1981. Other organizations that benefitted from her service and support include the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages, the NAFSA Association of International Educators, and the Modern Language Association.

She was pre-deceased by her husband, Rolland G. Paulston, who was a professor in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She is survived by her two sons: Christopher Paulston and his family and Ian Paulston and his family.

A remembrance and celebration of Professor Paulston’s contributions to the University of Pittsburgh and the field of linguistics will be held at the Heinz Chapel, University of Pittsburgh, on December 13, 2016 at 3pm with a reception to follow. December 13th is St. Lucia’s Day, which is celebrated in Sweden and Scandinavia. We chose this day to honor Christina’s Swedish heritage.

Alan Juffs
Professor of Linguistics
Director, English Language Institute

Former colleagues, students, and friends who wish to remember Christina might like to contribute to the TESOL travel fund established in the names of our two former ELI Directors, Professor Edward Mason Anthony, Jr. and Professor Christina Bratt Paulston. Under the menu ‘TESOL Awards and Grants General Fund’, select ‘Pitt Travel Award for IEP Instructors’. Alternatively, donations may be made in Christina’s name to the University of Pittsburgh Department of Linguistics Fund here:


Pitt's University Times also published an obituary, which can be found here.

Edward M. Anthony, Jr.

Professor Emeritus Edward M. Anthony, Jr. passed away on July 12, 2015. He will be missed by his colleagues and friends in the Department. A pioneer in structural linguistics, he joined our newly founded department in 1964. He was also instrumental in creating a group that eventually became the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Please see the obituary in the University Times.

Robert T. Henderson

Robert T. Henderson was the director of the Language Acquisition Institute, renamed in his memory as the Robert Henderson Language Media Center. The Robert T. Henderson Endowment Fund Award, created in his honor, is a scholarship given to a TESOL student each year. Please read his biography and obituary on University Times and visit "About" page of the Robert Henderson Language Media Center.