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William Jacobsen Jr.

1931 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
William H. Jacobsen

November 15, 1931

August 18, 2014

William H. Jacobsen, 82, died Aug. 18th, 2014 in Reno, NV.

He was born to Cmdr. William H. Jacobsen, USN ret., and Julie Froatz Jacobsen in San Diego CA, November 15, 1931. Bill graduated from Point Loma High School, San Diego, in 1949. He graduated from Harvard University in 1953 and received his Doctoral Degree in 1964 from University of California, Berkeley. He was a professor emeritus of linguistics at University of Nevada, Reno, where he taught for thirty years, retiring in 1994. While he was fluent in many languages, including all the main Romance languages and Sanskrit, he was a specialist in Native American languages, including Washo, Makah, Salinan, Nez Perce, and Nootkan, and also worked extensively on Basque. His early fieldwork on Salinan and Washo was part of a Survey of California Indian Languages sponsored by UC Berkeley, where he received his PhD. At UC Berkeley he also worked on an early machine language translation project. Beginning with his time as an assistant professor at the University of Washington, he spent many summers in Neah Bay, WA, working with Makah elders to record their language. He wrote the definitive Grammar of the Washo Language, devised writing systems and created materials for teaching tribal members Washo and Makah, and published many papers in linguistics. He served as president of the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas, received the Outstanding Researcher Award from the University of Nevada and received the Nevada Humanities Award. In addition, he was an amateur magician, played the piano, attended classical concerts regularly, and loved to play miniature golf with his grandchildren.

Survivors include daughter Joyce, Middletown CT, sister Julie Norman, Palo Alto CA, and grandchildren Catherine Boyd and Kenneth Boyd.

Published in Reno Gazette-Journal on Aug. 29, 2014
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