With grief in my heart, I report the death (on Saturday, May 14, in Edinburgh, Scotland, of lung cancer) of my old friend and respected colleague Barbara C. Scholz. A few things about her life and work and then some personal recollections.
The bare bones of her education: B.A., Urbana College; M.Div., Andover Newton; M.A., Ohio State; M.Sc., Edinburgh; Ph.D., Ohio State. Her major teaching positions, in philosophy: Univ. of Toledo, Ohio, and San Jose State Univ. She was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies in 2005-06, and was an honorary fellow and occasional lecturer in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh when she died.
On her Edinburgh webpage she listed her research interests:
Philosophy of the cognitive and linguistic sciences, especially philosophy of linguistics, philosophical aspects of language acquisition, the history of linguistic thought, and the role of mathematics in formalization of linguistic theories.
Though she taught a wide variety of courses in philosophy (including, as I recall, ethics and aesthetics on occasion), the focus of her thinking was on the philosophy of science and the philosophy of cognition, increasingly centered on language and linguistics as the years went on (as will be obvious from her description of her research interests above). She never thought of herself as a linguist, however –but linguists would benefit greatly from reading her perceptive, tightly argued, often subtle, unraveling of issues in linguistic theory. Two notable items specifically on language acquisition:
‘Searching for an argument for linguistic nativism’ by Barbara C. Scholz and Geoffrey K. Pullum, The Linguistic Review 19: 185-224 (2002)
‘Irrational nativist exuberance’ by Barbara C. Scholz and Geoffrey K. Pullum, In Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science, ed. by Robert J. Stainton, 59-80. Oxford: Basil Blackwell (2006)
Not long before her death she finished this long survey article:
‘Philosophy of Linguistics’, by Barbara C. Scholz, Francis Jeffry Pelletier, and Geoffrey K. Pullum, to appear in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward Zalta
Much of her published work was collaborative, especially with her husband, Geoff Pullum, but in most of these projects she was definitely the senior partner, and her name appropriately comes first in the list of authors (when editors and publishers allowed this).
On the personal side: Barbara and I met in Columbus, over 20 years ago, while she was a grad student at Ohio State; we were introduced by a boyfriend of mine, also an Ohio State grad student, who was a close friend of hers (actually, he invited his closest friends along on our first date — just a movie, nothing intimate — and these people all became good friends of mine, and then of Jacques’s as well).
A few years later, Barbara (then at Toledo) came to a philosophy conference in San Francisco and came down to Palo Alto for dinner with Jacques and me. When Geoff heard about this, he asked to be added, since he knew Barbara’s work and admired it. The four of us went to Gordon Biersch, and Barbara and Geoff really got along. After a little while, Jacques turned to me and said with some amusement, “I don’t think they’re going to be paying any attention to us any more” (they were making an intense intellectual bond; the rest came later). It was delightful.
That was March 31, 1991, celebrated as a holiday in the Pullum/Scholz household (and the Zwicky/Transue household, too). Twenty years ago this March.
Then I got to see a lot of Barbara and Geoff, mostly in their Santa Cruz house, sometimes on their visits to Palo Alto, but also during the 1993 Linguistic Institute at Ohio State, when we shared a house. Barbara was a very private person in many ways, but she was also sociable, great fun to be with, and a stunning person to think things over with.
Barbara’s cancer was diagnosed late in 2010 and then advanced very fast. But in early February she was still finding people to friend on Facebook — me in particular. I see with dismay that I never got around to answering her last Facebook message. Well, Barbara would always be there, thoughtful and direct and funny. Only she isn’t there any more.